Deliverance In the Desert

*Song lyrics throughout are from Open Hands, by Laura Story. Listen to this beautiful song here.
*The sweetest sound, the highest praise is the letting go of this life You gave. Our greatest prayer, our act of faith is an open hand. Lord, have your way. Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan.
“I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” – Exodus 14:4b
May we surrender all of our plans, everything we thought we wanted, for the greater glory of God. In this way, our hopes, dreams, and plans will grow to match His.
*Take it all, every weight, all the shame and brokenness. Jesus, I surrender all, every victory and loss. Take it all, take it all ’til all I have is open hands. A clenching fist, a life of fear, a burden held has no place here.
“As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord… ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!'”- Exodus 14:10,12b
We may be afraid of our trials, but fear is not from God. Fear is one of the things that keeps us bound.
*‘Cause You call me now to cast it all on the shoulders of the One who’s strong.
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'” – Exodus 14:13-14
God will deliver us from the things He knows we need to be delivered from, even if it isn’t the things we WANT to be delivered from. I want deliverance from my illness, but He is using my illness to deliver me from something far more oppressive – the sins that have kept me enslaved. His strong arms sustain me through the trials.
*Take it all, every hope, every dream, every plan. Take it all, every weight, all the shame and brokenness. Jesus, I surrender all every victory and loss.
“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” – Exodus 14:21-22
God shows His power by walking us right through our fears, not avoiding them. Sometimes He doesn’t rescue us from the things we fear most because He wants to build our faith through them.
*Take it all, take it all, ’til all I have is open hands.
“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen – the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” – Exodus 14:27-28
If we open our hands in surrender, God will cover the things that enslave us – our sin, fears, pain, our past. He will cover those things so that they no longer rule our lives. He has already set us free. The work is already done. We just need to open our hands and accept that gift of freedom.
*I’m not afraid of what I’ll lose. My greatest joy is finding You.
“And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord for he is highly exalted. The horse and rider he has hurled into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.'” – Exodus 14:31-15:2a
Even if we are still in the midst of our wandering, we will see God’s power here. We will praise Him for His victories and those who see those victories in our lives will know the Lord.
“You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.” – Joshua 24:7b
You lived in the desert for a long time. The deliverance God brought to the Israelites was not deliverance from the desert, but from slavery. The sea and the desert were not the enemies. The Egyptians were the enemy. Maybe the deliverance God is bringing to us is not deliverance from our desert but from the things that enslave us. Our illnesses and our trials are not our enemies. The things that keep us enslaved are our enemies. It’s time for us to stretch out our hands.
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World Lyme Day

Hmm… how do I even start this? I wanted to say “Happy World Lyme Day”, but happy is certainly not the right word. How about, “Informative World Lyme Day greetings to you.” Good grief, that sounds boring. Oh, well. Today is the beginning of Lyme Disease awareness month. Last year on this day I took my Facebook friends on a journey through my day just to give them a glimpse of a day in the life of someone with Lyme. Today, I decided to capture the things that make my life better, which has ended up being almost like a day in the Lyme life anyway. Some of you heard me say before that there’s a chance I don’t have Lyme anymore but, honestly, I think I’m in a Lyme flare or other disease caused by Lyme flare. Even if I no longer have the Lyme bacteria, I still suffer from the toll it has taken on my body so it’s still good for everyone to be aware that just because the bacteria is gone does not mean the person is better. Boy, am I struggling this week! Sunday was truly awesome for me. I was able to attend church and then make it up to my mountain for the first time in more than two years. I am still overflowing with gratitude!!

But, I’ve certainly been paying for it ever since. It was worth it just for that beautiful glimpse and the assurance that all things actually are possible. I haven’t slept well since then so I’m wondering if I tanked my adrenals. Always a guessing game. I had been sleeping much better (except during full moons and hormone shifts) since treatment from Sozo and the Sunshine clinic as well as letting go of SO much emotionally, but the last few nights have been rough. So I got up super late this morning. Here are some products that help my sleep: Room-darkening curtains (except I no longer wake up to sunrises so that’s a bit of a sacrifice for good sleep), essential oil diffuser with lavender oil, and my weighted blanket – the best birthday gift! I have restless legs and Jason would often massage them for me so I could go to sleep but he usually doesn’t have to do that anymore, thanks to this blanket.

After getting up I take a few supplements and the last couple days I have been drinking celery juice that I have freshly made in our juicer, which was an awesome Christmas gift from my parents a few years ago. Celery has natural minerals and salt, which is good for POTS, and it’s supposed to be very healing first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Speaking of salt, we buy Himalayan sea salt in bulk because I eat salt like it’s my job. Dr. Sunshine helped my blood pressure a lot but I still have to eat quite a bit of salt. Honestly, I’ve eaten so much of it that I’ve lost the ability to taste it very well. Himalayan sea salt is far better for you than other salt because it still has the minerals, and grinding it fresh is best. There’s a picture of my supplements. They certainly make my life better and more livable. I finally found a pill case big enough for all the times I have to take pills during the day. Another thing that makes my life better is cooking in my grandma’s case iron skillets. I just love thinking of the history and connection to my heritage and I love the way they cook. I have homemade “sausage”, spinach, celery, and raw, pure almond butter for breakfast, leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch, and we cook something hot for dinner. I used to despise cooking and then my illness hit so I didn’t have a choice. I can’t go to restaurants at all and I eat nothing from a package that I can think of. Now I love trying to figure out successful substitutions for the foods I can’t eat. It’s such a thrill when something turns out well! My current favorite is the chicken asparagus roll-ups. Grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, delicious! And there’s a picture of my water filter. It’s not the greatest but it’s what we can afford right now and better than nothing. I swear I get a stomach ache when I drink the water from our actual fridge filter. People with Lyme are usually so sensitive to anything and everything!

After breakfast, I have my time with God. I have grown to usually treasure my solitude because I get to spend hours with God if I want to. A couple years ago, I prayed that God would make me addicted to His word, and He has answered. I’ve read the Bible straight through multiple times since losing my job and I don’t plan to quit. I’ve been praying lately that God makes me addicted to HIM too, and He is doing so. I love spending time with Him and I pray all throughout the day. I pray for the people He brings to mind as well as the list of regulars I keep, and I talk to Him about everything. I have my daily calendar from a dear friend that helps me focus too. Another thing that has helped me a lot has been to speak my identity in Christ out loud. It has helped me to break away from a lot of the darkness of feeling like I’m worthless. God made me and that makes me so valuable to Him. Amazing. One of my favorite passages came up in my reading today and it says, “on the mountain of the Lord, it will be provided.” I love thinking about how God has led me up my mountain and has sustained me, providing all that I need along the way. I usually drink coffee while I’m reading and June sits next to me in the sun. I talk about quitting coffee all the time but it’s not working, so if anyone wants to be my quitting buddy, let me know! I enjoy looking out the window and watching my bluebirds. See the mama’s head peeking out of the house? Our friends made us a bluebird house last year and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I love our big window and will miss it if/when we move. Many people think that I am bored and they try to come up with things for me to do to pass the time. I used to be more bored than I am, but I have actually learned how to have a pretty fulfilling life. That has been such a gift from God. I am lonely, yes, but I am not bored. I write a lot, in my journal or in my blog, and I read (purple pens and journals make my life better too). I work on Celebrate Recovery stuff and a couple other projects I have up my sleeve that I may share later (gotta keep some mystery!). CR has made my life indescribably better too. It’s a place for anyone with hurts, habits, or hangups. God is using CR and counseling to help me heal from the inside out. There is a women’s Step Study (a more in-depth study of CR’s 12 steps) that meets at our house on Monday evenings, we attend main CR on Tuesday evenings, and lately we’ve often been meeting on Wednesday evenings for CR leader training. Yep, Jason and I are learning to be CR leaders now. I’ve talked myself out of and back into it many times and will probably continue to do so, but God uses the broken. That’s me!

After my God time, I shower and make myself as presentable as possible to the outside world before I take June out. Sometimes I take detox baths with epsom salts, but I don’t usually do that while I’m alone since hot baths and POTS don’t mix and I don’t want to be alone and faint. I also do ionic foot baths occasionally and castor oil packs. Basically, anything to get my stubborn detox pathways flowing. Fun shirts and socks make me smile and, yes, I had to fold myself into a pretzel to get both of those things in the picture. I don’t usually wear jewelry unless I’m going somewhere but since it’s a special day, I thought I’d wear some. I love jewelry that reminds me of the people who gave it to me or the verses on them. One of the bracelets says, “He restores my soul”. You  might remember that my word of the year last year was “restore”, and it is still very close to my heart. I also discovered eos, a natural lip balm, and Jason went a little crazy in cleaning the stores out of them for me. I think the ingredients are natural and okay for me but, if not, just don’t tell me! So then I’m ready to take June out and go get the mail. Mail makes my day better, getting and sending, though we didn’t get any today, perhaps because they’ve got condo complex-apocalypse going on out there. This place is torn up! I guess they’re trying to fix the pond so we will have a pretty fountain again, which will make me smile too. I do my best to send cards to people when I can. It’s pretty difficult for me to walk June, even just to the mailboxes, especially in the heat. Heat is still my #1 trigger and I cannot tolerate it even a little bit. It’s extremely discouraging. June doesn’t understand and she doesn’t walk well. She just likes to stop and smell every blade of grass. But, as difficult as she is sometimes, she is also the reason I leave the house and my constant companion. I am probably too attached to her and don’t know what I’d do without her!

Speaking of this dog, the following picture is just about right! I absolutely love Yoga Booty Ballet. I know, it sounds funny. Some of you know I used to be a ballerina. Well, I’m not sure if you can call someone a ballerina who just took lessons for twelve years and was certainly not a professional, but I like to call myself that! No offense to the real ballerinas. But, I miss dance so much and this has just enough ballet in it to keep me interested and helps me get some exercise. I’m not able to do much so, right now I only do parts of the Light and Easy version, but I’m trying. June loves to get in my way. I know, my yoga mat isn’t purple. Tragedy. A couple other things that make my life better are the salt lamp and my heart rate app. I don’t know if the lamp actually does anything but the soft light is calming to me. I only check the app when I’m feeling bad because it helps me know if I need to do something or if everything is fine and I just need to relax. I also follow a lot of inspirational people on social media, none more influential to me than Susie Larson. She is by far my favorite author and speaker, even though I’ve only read one of her books. Her other books are on my list for the future. She has had Lyme and she is unbelievably inspiring and powerful to me. I usually can’t watch her videos without tears. I also follow the group “A Little Lyme Laughter”, which provides so many laughs to those of us who certainly need them. Sometimes I’m able to have some porch time, but there is only a very small window of time when the heat won’t get to me. Maybe in our new house we’ll have a shaded porch. Purple flowers everywhere also make me so very thankful! Occasionally, I will get out my oil pastels and do some art. I’ve fallen in love with those things over the last couple years.

I know this blog has been stream-of-consciousness and jumbled, but these are the things that make my Lyme life a little better. I am so grateful for these gifts! I hope that they will give others who suffer ideas or inspiration and I encourage you to make your own gratitude list. It’s uplifting to count God’s extravagant gifts! Other things that make me smile are my favorite flowers – purple irises. I love the dark purple ones but haven’t seen any of those up close yet this year. I can’t get mine to bloom again. Sunrises and sunsets are God’s paintings for me, unique each day. My favorite creations in the whole world are sun rays. They remind me that God is here with me and that means everything is okay. Sun rays have often uplifted my heart during difficult times. I adore my Tennessee mountains and have a gazillion pictures of them. I wish I could hike them more, but maybe some day! I love looking at birds and watching the deer visit me from my window. I love getting lost in my piano, playing the guitar and singing. Also pictured with the piano is art from some of my friends, given to me over the years. Each one is precious to my heart. Most uplifting to my heart, though, are the people. I have an amazing husband who takes the vows of sickness and health very seriously and exemplifies what it means to love His wife like Christ loves the church. He is Jesus to me every single day. I also adore being an aunt to four precious children. It makes me so sad if I think too long about how my illness has kept me away from them much of the time but they are the most important kiddos in my life and I love them so! I am thankful for family and all of those who have become family by walking with me through this difficult illness. When life gives you Lyme, God gives you love.

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The Real Living Hope Is Not a Song

I’ve done some difficult things lately. I need to remind myself of that when I feel like I still can’t do anything. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that the verse I chose to repeat to myself during my last treatment was Acts 2:25-26, “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope.” The next time I went to Celebrate Recovery after treatment, I decided to try and test out my new stamina and stand for worship. I made it through almost a whole song before I had to sit down and then we sang “Living Hope”, by Phil Wickham. It was my hug from God letting me know that, no matter what, I’m going to be okay with Him.

Then I gathered even more courage and started going to church. Church is very hard for me for a lot of reasons. Leaving the house in general is very hard for me. If you see me at church and I appear to ignore you, it’s only because I am hyper-focused on survival, just making it from point A to point B (car to seat). If I don’t do that, all the faces swirl around me and I’ll never make it. My brain will sometimes play me a review later in the day and I’ll realize I ignored someone and feel bad about it pretty much for the rest of my life (J.E., I know you said “hi” to me at the Good Friday service… though it didn’t register at the time. I’m sorry. Good to see you). Yes, these are the things that play through my brain constantly. I am getting better at not beating myself up as much… slowly. Anyway, I struggle with attending church probably more than anything else. But every Sunday since I’ve been back, we have sung “Living Hope.” God hugs. I may be absolutely trembling the whole time I’m there, but I’m going to be okay.

Now that Easter is over, I know we won’t be singing that song every Sunday and it sounds so silly but I started to wonder if I could make through without that song. Umm… hello? What am I even thinking? I have the REAL Living Hope with me all the time. Who needs a song? He’s so much better than a song. Jesus plays in my head more beautifully than a song, fills my heart up better than a song, speaks to me even when words fail, and gives me chills with His nearness more often than a song. If I really believe the words that I’m singing, I need to start acting like it. “In desperation, I turned to heaven and spoke Your name into the night. Then through the darkness, Your loving kindness tore through the shadows of my soul. The work is finished. The end is written. Jesus Christ, my Living Hope.” I cried out to Jesus so many nights and He absolutely tore through the dark shadows of my soul. I am so comforted by the fact that the end is already written so I can quit trying so hard. IT IS FINISHED. “Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever. Jesus Christ, my Living Hope. Hallelujah! Praise the One who set me free. Hallelujah! Death has lost its grip on me.” I am His forever. Death has finally lost its grip on me and I feel the chains of all that I’ve allowed to keep hold of me slowly slipping off. Praise the One who set me free!

I quite often try to cling to things to get me through whatever I need to do, whether it be a song, a hyper-focus on the end, or even physically clinging to my husband. Am I alone in this? Maybe you do the same thing. I wonder what would happen if we cling to Jesus, the real Living Hope, during the hard things. Focusing on His presence will surely cast out fear if we let it. He is our ever-present God hug. We’re going to be okay.

God, I pray for the comfort of Your presence. I pray for a deep awareness of Your nearness. I pray for our hearts to be constantly reminded of our connection to You. Just as a song can get stuck in our heads, may You be stuck on a continuous loop in our hearts, giving us peace and strength to keep walking from points A to Z. Oh yes, and give us the ability to look up into the eyes of Your people along the way, even if we trip over our own feet. Help us love each other enough to embrace our awkwardness and anxieties. Grow Your love in us. In the name of Jesus, our Living Hope, Amen.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time." - 1 Peter 1:3-5
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Wrapped In Love

"When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 'Let's not tear it,' they said to one another. 'Let's decide by lot who will get it.'" - John 19:23-24a

Imagine believing Jesus’ only value was His undergarment. Imagine grasping for His clothes while completely rejecting His heart. I squirm just thinking about it. I ache with what the soldiers missed. Would I have missed it too?

I want to be healed. I wait, sometimes impatiently, for Jesus’ touch. When I think of the hem of His robe, my body physically aches with longing. And I’m forced to answer some difficult questions. Do I long for Him that much? Do I ache for what He offers me right now in this moment, knowing it is best? Or do I want His clothes more than I want Him?

I thank God for the gift of knowing what the soldiers did not. I know there was more to Jesus on that day, and there’s more to Him today, than His seamless garment. I perceive the seamless way He cares for me. I believe the unimaginable depth His love reaches for me. On this Good Friday, I look past the clothes and embrace Jesus’ heart as He wraps me up in Him. I accept the peace that He left and the grace offered on the cross. And as much as I’d love to touch His robe, I claim a deeper healing- the salvation of my soul. The soldiers only had eyes for the physical Jesus, clinging to their perception of what would be left after His death. May my eyes be ever open to the resurrected Jesus, clinging to all that He was, is, and will always be. He is with me each moment. I can touch His presence. I can wash His feet with my tears. I can pour out my heart and receive His in abundance. I can listen for His voice.

I let go of His clothes… so I can cling to His heart.

 

Song I’m feeling so deeply: The More I Seek You, by Kari Jobe
“The more I seek You, the more I find You
The more I find You, the more I love You
I want to sit at Your feet, drink from the cup in Your hand
Lay back against You and breathe, feel Your heartbeat
This love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand
I melt in Your peace, it’s overwhelming.”

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On the Night He was Betrayed

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus looked around the room at those who would abandon Him… and He washed their feet.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus taught humility and love… and then ultimately demonstrated.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread… who could eat on a night like this?
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus broke the bread… and felt the breaking in His body.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave thanks… thanks? Thanks for the bread, for the brokenness, for the salvation of those who would grieve Him.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus lifted the cup… and tasted His own blood on His lips.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus celebrated… celebrated God sparing His children by the blood of lambs, and of the Lamb.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus told the truth, “one of you will betray me”… but He did not seek revenge.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus looked at His betrayer… and ate with Him.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave bread and wine… and then gave everything.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus settled a petty dispute about who was greater… and then demonstrated the answer as the one who gives of Himself.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus forgave those who would leave Him… THAT VERY NIGHT.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus sang a hymn… who could choke out a song on a night like this?
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus knew He would be abandoned by His closest friends… but HE comforted THEM.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus listened to His friends pledge to stay with Him… and then watched them all run away.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus confided in His friends and fell to the ground in sorrow… while they fell asleep.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus cared about the temptation of his friends… but knew they would fall to it.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus looked forward to taking His disciples to be with Him one day… even though they slept through His deepest hour of need.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus gave peace to those who left Him… not punishment.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for protection… for those who didn’t try to protect Him.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus spoke of joy… how could He even think about such a thing?
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus asked God for a change of plan… while surrendering to His will.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus was strengthened by God… even in His anguish.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for the glory of God… even as He was about to be disgraced.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus allowed Himself to be kissed by death… in the body of one of his dearest friends.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus rebuked violence and defense… and gave Himself up.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus healed one arresting Him… though His own body would be broken in far bigger ways.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus looked His closest friend in the eyes… just after that friend denied three times that he even knew Him.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus spoke of His resurrection… but was accused of blaspheme.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus endured ridicule, spit, and hatred… but He was silent. *

I don’t understand this kind of love. On the 2,850th night after I’ve been betrayed, abandoned, neglected, hurt… I avoid washing feet. Breaking bread ties my stomach in knots. I rear against humility even as I long for it and pray for unconditional love. I often fight the brokenness and occasionally find the strength to choke out thanks. My celebration is tainted. I want justice. I join in the disciples’ petty dispute that I am right… that I am greater. I hold onto the hurt caused by those who left me instead of receiving the comfort that Jesus offers me in release. Sometimes I can hardly sing. My tongue refuses to speak of joy. I do still care deeply, while simultaneously reliving the pain of abandonment in my darkest hours. I want punishment AND peace, even though the two cannot coexist. I fall to my knees in sorrow and ask God to change His mind about forgiveness… because I’m frustrated by the lack of change I see in my heart. Unlike Jesus, I avoid eye contact because it might betray the hold deep sorrow still has on me. I don’t know how to surrender, and it’s not for lack of trying. There must be something I’m still missing…

On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for ME…
How could that knowledge not spur me on to keep praying, to keep pleading, to keep singing, to keep serving, to keep loving? As long as I continue falling to my knees as many times as it takes, I am strengthened by God to keep going.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed for unity among all of us… even as He watched discord and separation rule that particular night.
On the night He was betrayed, Jesus declared God’s love for us… knowing the crushing weight of our sin that would be placed on Him.
Knowing that this kind of selfless power lives inside of us gives us the drive to keep putting one foot in front of the other… or one knee in front of the other as we kneel to wash each others’ feet. The love Jesus is growing inside of us gives us the ability to glorify God even in our continued brokenness.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Nothing paints a clearer picture of this verse than Jesus on the night He was betrayed. I fight against loving deeply because it hurts. Jesus loved deeply and was hurt. Why do I think it should be different for me? But Jesus also loved deeply and forgave, possessed joy, experienced peace, and gave glory to God… because His love covered the multitude of sins against Him. His love lives inside of me… with the ability to cover all of the wrongs stacked up against me so that all I see is love. Love blanketing the jagged edges, softening the blows with God’s comfort. What a beautiful picture.

On this night when Jesus was betrayed, may we feel His love well up in us… and forgive. May we accept the peace that He gives us… and trust. May we sing with the joy He gives us… and celebrate. And may we live on our knees more often than not. Let us do this in remembrance of Him.

Song I’m feeling: The Basin and the Towel, by Michael Card
“And the space between ourselves sometimes
Is more than the distance between the stars
By the fragile bridge of the Servant’s bow
We take up the basin and the towel
And the call is to community
The impoverished power that sets the soul free
In humility, to take the vow
That day after day we must take up the basin and the towel.”

*1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 13-17

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God, Grow My Gratitude

I fully admit I’m having a pity party today. It’s only April 10 and it’s already too hot for me and it’s just not fair. Sometimes I have to be honest and ask the tough questions. Why would God have created an intense longing in me to be outdoors, to be present in these mountains all around me, and not somehow make a way for me to be there without fainting? Heat is still my biggest trigger and I can barely even walk my dog. Sometimes I wonder if I can truly make it through five more months of even hotter weather. It sucks. I used to love the summer. I moved to TN so that I could hike those beautiful mountains. And now I just have to stare at them through my window. I have to watch everyone else enjoy their days in the sun without a care. It is not fair. I know I sound like a petulant child. Thank God He can take it.

I had an amazing day on Sunday. It was the first time I was able to attend church in ages. I was able to stand up for some of the singing and even go to the grocery store afterward. These are huge accomplishments and I celebrated them. I invited others to celebrate them with me. But the next day, my autonomic nervous system went completely haywire and it has not recovered. I feel utterly out of control. I never know what’s going to happen next. Will my blood sugar drop? Will my blood pressure drop? Will my heart rate drop? Will all three of them drop? I was alone on Monday when the first episode of near-unconsiousness hit. And I’ve been living in fear of it happening again ever since. God has not given me a spirit of fear. I know that. I repeat that. I’m still afraid. But not all the time, thanks be to God.

I should be grateful for Sunday. And, oh, how I am! But I have to be honest and say this one step forward, two steps back business is HARD. It’s exhausting. I’m tired of this dance. So tired. And I’m also tired of telling everyone how good I’m doing only to have to tell them again how bad I’m doing. It hurts, and for some reason I still carry a load of shame for not being able to get it together enough for a true celebration – the celebration I know everyone wants for me. I know God doesn’t want that shame for me and He wants to take away the pressure that I feel to “get it together.” Most days I can let that sink into my heart. But other days…

One of the questions posed recently in my recovery group was something along the lines of, “In your past, what have you been ungrateful for?” I was reminded that I have not been grateful for my life. At all. The ungratefulness is not just in my past either. I am not grateful for my life even today. I am grateful for things IN my life. But not my life itself. I don’t think I’m still angry at God for giving me life, but I look at it as something to endure. I can’t even imagine enjoying it. I’m still mulling over whether or not I think there’s anything wrong with that. Sure, there’s that passage about Jesus coming to give me life to the full. But, what exactly does that mean? You may have to stay tuned.

One of my song obsessions lately is “Scars”, by I Am They. Before I could make it to the piano to play it in an attempt to climb out of the pity party today, the words smacked me in the face. “I’m thankful for the scars ’cause, without them, I wouldn’t know Your heart.” I wonder. Without this life, would I truly be able to know God’s heart? I believe the answer to that is, no. How could I possibly know how much love He has for me even when I hurt, even when I pity, even when I rage, even when I sin… if I wasn’t here on earth? How could I know how He carries me through the pain if I never had any pain? How could I remember the comfort and the beautiful binding He offers my wounds if I never had any scars? Maybe this is the beginning of gratitude for my life. My knock-down, drag-out, beautiful life.

I hate having to say I’ve taken two steps back after one step forward. But should I just stop celebrating the step forward? I have to admit, I’m tempted. But that one step forward matters just as much as the two steps back. So, I’ll keep celebrating. And maybe what I need to remember even more is that those two steps back are just as important, and real, as the one step forward. They are happening and they are HARD. They are not to be ignored and they are not to cause me shame. They are to help me experience more God. I long to be on a different dance floor, one where every step is perfect and pain-free for all eternity. But I am thankful for the practice I’m getting right now. I have the best dance partner to teach me all of these forward and backward steps, and He’ll still be my partner then. Dancing with God now is a dear reflection, rippled but still breathtaking, of the gift of eternity with Him forever. I’m thankful for the dance. I’m thankful for the scars. I’m thankful for this life. May God grow this gratitude in me.

"The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." - Psalm 28:7

Song I’m feeling: Scars, by I Am They
“I’m thankful for the scars
‘Cause, without them, I wouldn’t know Your heart
And I know they’ll always tell of who You are
So forever, I am thankful for the scars.”

 

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My Body Also Will Live In Hope

I have three more days of treatment with Dr. Sunshine next week. I’ve been a little torn about making a big deal of it like last time because I don’t know if I can handle crushing your excited faces when you think I’ve been healed and the next time I see you, I’m not. It nearly broke my heart each time. Treatment was also a pretty traumatic experience. I wanted to cancel the appointments next week but Jason was having none of that nonsense and we couldn’t get our money back from the Airbnb so, there’s that. I’m glad I get to go away with my husband. In five and a half years of marriage we’ve spent a weekend at his cousin’s lake house for our honeymoon, we’ve stayed in his parents’ cabins once, we’ve gone to visit family, and he stayed one day with me during my last treatment. That’s it. I wish there were a little fewer doctor visits and a little more beach, but at least it’s something.

Prior to my last treatment, I had such a great attitude and I let myself hope. I opened up to healing more than I have in the past. I was so ready. And the relief only lasted a week, if I’m being generous. This time my attitude is vastly different. I have very little hope for long-term health and I know that if I don’t believe in the treatment, it certainly won’t work. But, dear readers, one cannot simply make oneself hope. If it were that easy, I promise I would do it. I have tried, but it’s no use. I just have to rely on the Holy Spirit to hope in me and on the hope that all of you have for me. That’s ultimately why I decided to even tell you about next week.  That and my very strong belief in honesty as one of the most powerful healing tools. So, thank you for hoping on my behalf. I do continue to pray for hope and I pray even for the desire to hope. “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here.”

Last time I chose Habakkuk 3:19 to keep me focused and grounded throughout treatment and that verse is still very present in my mind and heart. But I have been praying for God to lead me to another verse this time. I believe He gave me a passage this morning:

"I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope" (Acts 2:25-26).

MY BODY ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE. Those words burst off the page and straight to my heart. The passage is about Jesus’ body not seeing decay but also about hope for our own glorified bodies. One day our bodies will shed every malfunction and will be perfected, the way God intended from the beginning. I hope for that day. But I pray that my hope lives for today as well.

This passage is the same as in Psalm 16, but the wording in Acts touched my heart. I love the prior verse, Psalm 16:7 that says, “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” Even in the darkness, maybe even because of the darkness, I can hear Him speaking clearer to me. He counsels my broken and hope-weary heart. I live in hope to hear His voice, even if health never comes in this life.

God goes before me and stands beside me (Psalm 16:8). My faith was not shaken last time and it will not be shaken this time. There was a time when my faith would have faltered, but I am so thankful that I have learned to run toward God instead of away from Him in hurt and anger when my hope is crushed. He makes my heart glad and brings praise to my lips (Psalm 16:9) and I pray He also brings living hope to my body. In Psalm 16 the wording is, “my body will also rest secure.” Even in brokenness, my body can rest in the hope of its eventual revival.

“… you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:10-11). God will never abandon us because of Jesus. Because Jesus lives, we can live. We follow Him down the path to life. Nothing here on earth is as wonderful as His presence, and we have the hope of eternal pleasures because He holds us in the same hand as those pleasures. Someone once said, “The more aware I become of God’s presence with me now, the more I hope for heaven, and not in my usual trying-to-escape way. I hope for heaven because I want to see Jesus face to face. Experiencing God now has led me to a greater hope in heaven. Being with Him has become more important to me than health and sentiment. What could be more healing than the presence of God?” Okay, it was me.. haha. I said it. You (and I) really should read the post I wrote on hope again… so click here.

I hope to experience God next week, no matter what else happens. I pray He brightens my spirit with a hope that is alive and coursing through my veins.  “No amount of disappointment after hope can ever be worse than feeling… your spirit darken without it.” Wow, that girl really knows what she’s talking about. 😉

So, next week we leap again in the strength of God. We pray for His counsel in the darkness and His hope everlasting. We rejoice in the presence of God always with us and pray that God will take my right hand so that my body will always LIVE IN HOPE.

Song I’m feeling: Living Hope, by Phil Wickham:

“In desperation, I turned to heaven
And spoke Your name into the night
Then through the darkness, Your loving-kindness
Tore through the shadows of my soul
The work is finished, the end is written
Jesus Christ, my living hope.”

God, in desperation I speak the name of Jesus into my doubt and disappointment. Bring light to the shadows of my brokenness. I know Your work is already finished. And the end is YOU. Hallelujah. Amen.

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A Broken Heart Is Broken Ground

Jesus told this parable:

“A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down'” (Luke 13:6-9).

I may be taking some liberties with this text but I can’t get it out of my head. What struck me most was the “dig around it and fertilize it” part. In order for fruit to grow on a tree, it requires digging up of the stagnant ground and anything in that ground that hinders growth. It also requires the pouring in of those things that help growth, like water and fertilizer. In order for God’s fruit to grow in my life, I have to dig up the places I’ve neglected, avoided, and let dry up. I have to dig out Satan’s lies I’ve allowed to take root and choke me out. And I have to allow God’s living water to refresh me. I have to let His Spirit fill me with truth. I can’t make my own fruit grow, as impatient as I am, but what I can do is of vital importance. I can dig up the past that has so hindered me and I can pour in the Truth and let the Holy Spirit fall fresh on me.

To me, this is reminiscent of Psalm 51:16-17, “You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God already provided the ultimate sacrifice through Jesus so He doesn’t want any more burnt offerings or trying to earn salvation. What He does want is a broken and humble heart, open and allowing His love and truth to pour in. We cannot receive from God unless we break up the walls around our heart and the ground we’ve allowed to dry up in us. But we don’t do this difficult work on our own. It’s so interesting to me that the contrite heart in Psalm 51 is noted in my Bible to be the same words in Matthew 11:29 that describe God as “gentle and humble in heart”. It is in this passage that God calls us to come to Him, to rest our souls, and to let Him be yoked to us in order to lighten our load. The process will absolutely require heartbreak, but God offers us comfort in His rest.

For many years I have been like that landowner, waiting for my fruit to grow. And I praise God for allowing me to taste its sweetness here and there. But every time I see the fleshly parts of myself rear their ugly heads, I wonder how much longer I will have to wait for the whole tree to bloom with big, beautiful fruit. The bearing of fruit requires patience, unforced. And a lack of fruit just means that I have more ground to dig up, more truth to realize, more sweet rest to find, and more God to shower into my heart. I pray that God makes me useful by growing His fruit in my life so that I never simply ‘use up’ soil. I am thankful that He walks me through the digging up process as I plow the tough stuff side by side with Him (Matthew 11), and I am thankful that He is responsible for bearing the fruit, pruning me instead of cutting down the whole tree, because I am His. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

With God beside and within me, I continue to dig deep and open to His truth where once were lies, His water where once was dry, and His healing for my broken ground.

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My Strength On the Heights

Well, hello there. I thought I would post one more time before my treatment next week. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I was able to get into a very successful clinic for a four-day treatment after waiting well over a year for an appointment. People come from all over the U.S. to see these doctors and I feel privileged to finally be able to go there. I’m looking forward to it but also covet your prayers that the die-off reactions won’t be too severe. I heard that one of the treatments they do is an ionic foot bath so we decided to get one and I tried it out last night. I might be dying. It’s detoxing, for sure, but I’m just so sensitive. I may be re-thinking traveling back and forth each day since the clinic is more than two hours away. I welcome ALL THE PRAYERS. If you want to follow my progress, feel free to friend me on Facebook. I’ll try to update as I am able.

It’s been a rough little patch for me during this weird February heat wave. While most people are celebrating, I’ve fallen into a deeper depression. My biggest POTS trigger is heat and I can’t get even the tiniest bit too hot without feeling foggy, dizzy, and faint. I couldn’t help but think that if the cold is over already (and we barely had a winter. I know some of you will disagree with me on that), I have months… MANY months to feel like absolute poop. I’ve tried to snap out of this ‘blah’ because supposedly the treatment next week is going to cure my POTS. I want so badly to believe it. But you know how I struggle with hope.

I’m afraid of more disappointment crushing me. But I end up expending so much energy trying not to hope that I get sicker and I’m usually unsuccessful anyway. Sometimes hope is an unstoppable force, thanks be to God. And this time I am better equipped to handle the disappointment. Previously, I don’t think I knew what to do with my wounds so I just let myself sink down into them. Of course, they absolutely need to be felt. But now I know how to avoid being irreparably crushed by them. I am no longer afraid to run straight to God and lift up my wounds, to show them to my Father, and to limp into His arms, asking Him to hold me while I pour out the pain. This time I’m trying to hope. Old habits die hard so, at the advice of my wise counselor, I’ve been doing my best to thank God for whatever does or does not happen next week. It’s not easy because, I’m telling you right now that if I don’t feel much better, my heart will be broken again. But thankfully I know what to do with that heartbreak now.

I’ve chosen Habakkuk 3:19 as my theme verse, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” God is my strength through whatever happens. He is our strength even, as it says in verses 17-18, “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.” I also have issues with ‘joy’ but God’s working on that in me as well. Even if nothing changes after next week, I will still love You, Lord. I will still run to You with my heartbreak.

Through all of this, God is my strength. I looked at the cross-references of this verse to discover what strength actually means here and, in Deuteronomy 33:29, it means that God is our shield and helper. He is our glorious sword. I love that. In Psalm 46:1-5, it means He is our very great reward.

What are the heights on which He enables us to stand? Most of the cross-references talk about battle and trampling on enemies. I am able to go into this battle with God’s strength and I can stand in the presence of my enemy and whatever he uses against me, whether it be Lyme, damaging lies, or shame. With God’s help, I can trample them. I don’t think I can go so far as to say it means I will be delivered from Lyme (though I very well may be), but that I can stand and fight, knowing that my reward is more of God.

I quite frequently watch deer outside my window and nothing seems to stand in their way. They bound over everything. I did a little research on their feet to see just what God is doing when He “makes my feet like the feet of a deer.” The outer hoof of a deer absorbs the shock of every step and gives traction on soft or wet surfaces. The inner hoof provides a cushion for hard surfaces. For these reasons, deer rarely stumble even when leaping into unknown territory.

So next week, I leap. I don’t know what I will find but, with God as my strength, I will not stumble. I will stand firm in the hard places and fight the lies of the enemy knowing that, no matter what happens, God is my very great reward.

Song I’m feeling: Sound of Surviving, by Nichole Nordeman

“They told me I’d never get to tell my story. Too many bullet holes.
It would take a miracle.
These voices inside my head like poison, trying to steal my hope,
silencing my soul.
But my story is only now beginning. Don’t try to write my ending.
Nobody gets to sing my song.
This is the sound of surviving. This is my farewell to fear.
This is my whole heart deciding, I’M STILL HERE.
I’m still here and I’m not done fighting.
This is the sound of SURVIVING.
These pieces, the ones that left me bleeding, intended for my pain
became the GIFT You gave me.
I gathered those pieces into a mountain. My freedom is in view.
I’m stronger than I knew.
And this hill is not the one I die on.
I’m gonna lift my eyes and I’m gonna keep on climbing.”

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How Do We Know We Have Healed?

I see so many people sharing the meme that says, “When you can tell your story and it doesn’t make you cry, that’s when you know you’ve healed.” I wholeheartedly disagree.

When someone we love dies, do we ever stop grieving? Do we really want to? When we experience any loss at all, there is grief. And grief means the person or circumstance was important to us and is part of our story. Is an end to grief really healing or just ignoring and trying to forget? Sure, tears may dissipate, but I don’t believe they have to disappear in order to heal. In fact, I would argue that allowing them brings far more healing. I believe every moment of our lives, good or bad, is an important part of our story and should never be forgotten. We need to remember our pain so that one day we can recognize and celebrate the good that God made from it. When we look back and see the beauty that was brought from our brokenness, do tears of gratitude or even continued sadness that it happened mean lack of healing?

My thinking on this has only recently begun changing. I used to agree with, and probably even shared, the meme in the past. For so long I thought that if I forgave someone or let God have control of a hurtful situation, I shouldn’t feel pain anymore. I beat myself up as unforgiving because seeing the person who hurt me or thinking about the situation still caused tremendous pain. I thought that feeling hurt or angry meant that I hadn’t really let something go; that I hadn’t truly released it from my grasp. But we can’t just stop pain and anger like that. Our feelings are a gift from God meant to be felt, not repressed. I hope I never stop becoming emotional about my story because it means that every bit of it was important to me. And every bit of it is important to God.

So, if lack of tears isn’t an indicator that we’ve forgiven, released, or let something go, how do we know that part of us has truly healed? I’m not entirely sure and am open to suggestion but I have some ideas. I suspect that we have truly forgiven when we can pray blessings on the person who hurt us and truly mean it, or we can be grateful for someone’s joy even when we don’t feel it ourselves. I wonder if healing looks like smiling at the memories of loved ones even through tears. Maybe it has to do with being able to think and talk about the terrible wrong that was done to us without fear because God hasn’t given us that spirit, but one of power, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Jesus said “do not fear” quite a few times but I’m pretty certain He never said, “do not cry.” He would have looked pretty hypocritical if He did. I wonder if releasing something means we stop feeling powerless under it because God is powerful in us. Maybe it really means I have released myself, allowing myself to feel the way that I feel without shame. I wonder if it means we have sound minds because the broken person or circumstance is not plaguing our thoughts constantly, dipping us further and further into despair. I wonder if healing means believing that we no longer need whatever caused our hurt because we have all that we need in Christ. We may still want what we lost in our lives and wish things were different, but we admit that we don’t actually need it. Maybe we accept that we may never get what we want but we start to believe that’s okay because we will always have what God knows we truly need.

One of the definitions of release is to disentangle. I have a hunch that the things I still haven’t let go of are the things that are still tangled up in my identity or the way I believe and think. If the hurtful thing that happened is governing the way I think or act on a daily basis, I don’t think it has yet been released. Another definition is to allow something to move or act freely. If someone’s actions continue to cause me great distress, I don’t think I’ve let go of my control. I can still grieve, yes, but harm myself with constant stress over someone not acting how I think they should act is more than just grief.

One of the hardest definitions of release for me personally is to remove restrictions or obligations so that they become available for other activity. The problem is, I don’t WANT them to be available for other activity because that means they’ve truly left me, that something else was more important to them than me. I really struggle accepting that rejection and loss. So I wonder if healing in that area might be a strong sense that I am never rejected by God and that His acceptance and presence is more important to me than that of others. I think maybe I’m allowed to be sad that these people or circumstances are out of my life, but perhaps healing means that I don’t feel ultimately rejected because I know that I always matter to God. I think healing is a strong sense of who I am to God overpowering who I am/am not to the person who rejected me.

Another definition of release is allow to return to its resting position by ceasing to put pressure on it. This one is all about control. I’ve tried so hard to manage every circumstance and every person in my life so that I never have to get hurt in any way. But all of this pressure just ends up hurting me even more and ruins my relationships anyway. Healing = rest. There’s that ‘rest’ again.

The last definition of release that I’ll mention is to discharge a debt or surrender a right. If someone hurts me, I want justice. Technically, I deserve justice. But justice is not mine to take. It is God’s. Healing in this area may mean to stop thinking in terms of what the person owes me, but of the gratitude that we both owe to God for not enacting His justice on us.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). I speak this verse to myself more often than any others and I think it may have a lot to tell us about knowing when we have truly released something into the care of God. When we have forgiven or let something go, we can receive healing when it no longer fills us with fear. We are no longer afraid of rejection or ashamed of the way we feel. We recognize God’s power in us to overcome that shame and to know who we are in Him. We are able to love and bless others without fear of rejection even when they hurt us, because of God’s love in us. And we have a soundness of mind, a mind that no longer spins with anxiety and “what ifs” and “I should have done thats”. We have a mind at rest when we release the control of hurtful situations to God.

Healing doesn’t mean we stop crying. I think it means we cry without fear or shame. I think we have truly let go of control when we are no longer controlled by what happened. I think we have released when, despite continued pain, we are at rest with our heads on our Father’s chest, even if we are still crying in His arms. So, don’t be fooled by inaccurate memes. Our Father cares about our tears.

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