It Would Be Easier

“It would be easier if He wasn’t who He said He was.”

Those words, penned by Jennie Allen in her book- Nothing To Prove, stared me right in the face. She was giving words to Peter as he pondered his denial of Jesus. It would have been easier for him not to have to look Jesus in the eyes again after his betrayal. Those piercing, loving, forgiving eyes gazing into eyes that had denied knowing Him. It would have been easier for Peter to just try and forget.

It would be easier. And I want easy! Too many people have put me on a pedestal and I want to knock it right out from under myself every single time. You have NO idea what goes on in my heart, and that’s probably my fault for not telling you as much of the ugly as is necessary to kick the pedestal down. I am NOT an inspiration… so just stop. Right here and right now, I admit that what I continually strive for in this life is a way to make things easier for myself. And when something goes wrong, I immediately look for a way out.

For example, I thought my hope was in the right place because the thing I hope for more than anything is Heaven. I long for it every moment. But God recently broke through my thoughts and showed me that my motivation in hoping for Heaven is not pure. I hope for Heaven so that I can run away from this life. Because it would be easier for me to be there right now than it is for me to be here. It shook me that my motivation for the end of this life is not Jesus. Rather, it’s an escape. And it breaks my heart that I want the escape more than I want Jesus. Because if I really wanted Jesus more than anything, I could have all of Jesus right now. I could have all of Him and He could have all of me if I would stop running from Him.

But I run because the Jesus life feels too hard for me. It would be easier if I could just ignore every hard thing, and I’m ashamed to say that I have tried. I try all the time. It would be easier if Jesus had called me to a pain-free life. Instead, He reminds me that He won’t take my pain away but He will help me carry it (Isaiah 53:4). It would be easier if I could turn a cold shoulder to the ones who hurt the people I love, but there’s that “honor one another above yourselves” thing (Romans 12:10). It would be easier to ignore any nudge of calling on my life because I don’t have what it takes, but Jesus said the Holy Spirit would accomplish it through me (Matthew 10:19-20). It would be easier if Jesus would stop calling me to have my heart ripped to shreds, but there is a pruning process that is necessary for bearing fruit (John 15:2). It would be easier if I could just stop my heart from loving altogether but Jesus said loving God and loving my neighbor as myself are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-39). It would be easier if none of this mattered. It would be easier if Jesus wasn’t who He said He was.

But is easier really better? Today, I really want to say- yes, yes it is. But I know better. Easier invites complacency, stagnancy, pride, a life choked-out from the lack of Living water. Easier takes instead of gives. It consumes comfort instead of offering it to someone else. Easier is safe and selfish. Easier extinguishes real relationships. And easier does not care about others. Easier means this life is all there is and, oh my, I can’t handle that! Easier here means there’s nothing to look forward to There. Easier is a wasted life.

It would be easier if He wasn’t who He said He was. Then I could relax and forget about the hard things He calls me to – the loving my enemies, the giving up my control, the being seen and vulnerable. And though my heart feels pulverized by this life that is so, so hard, easier is not better. Because easier is a life without Jesus. When I think about it, when I REALLY think about it, life without Jesus is not actually easier. That’s just an illusion. Because a life without Jesus is a life done alone. It is dark. It has no hope for anything but the right now. And Jesus invites us to more than the right now, to a beautiful and eternal future. And He wants us to allow Him to make our lives on this earth easier. He wants to carry our burdens and He wants us to rest in Him. Life with Jesus is actually the easiest and best life because it is a life allowing Him to do the hard work. He wants to flood our lives with Light for the path, love for our broken hearts, and His strength for the hard things. I AM SO GLAD HE IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS!

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).
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The Healing Crisis

"The Lord replied, 'My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.'" - Exodus 33:14

Remember the time I almost died? Well maybe not, but I thought I was dying and I’m trying to convey how I felt. I started a new supplement this past week and it completely knocked me off my feet. I believe I had my first herxheimer reaction (herx) from the medicine. This article explains a mild herx but it’s basically a die-off reaction, also referred to as a “healing crisis”. Medicine kills the pathogens in your body- in my case Lyme, among many other things- and the body reacts to the large amount of toxins released as the pathogens die. The die-off either exacerbates the symptoms you already have or it creates new ones. There’s always something new to discover in the medical wonder that is my body. A daily adventure, if you will. I reached out to the Lyme community and the consensus was, if you’re lying in the fetal position waiting for death, it’s a herx. That about sums up this past week in my life.

During my reaction, I vowed that I would not take the medicine again because it simply wasn’t worth the agony of sleeping on the bathroom floor and the fear that my heart would truly stop beating, nor the worry from my husband who has to watch all of this unfold and still fitfully attempt to get enough sleep for work. But my doctor told me to take two days off the meds and start back very slowly. During those two days of rest I did a lot of thinking and praying. I realized that my joints and glands were not as swollen. I think for the first time, something was actually working. That was the scary part – the realization that it doesn’t matter which medicine accomplishes this task, if I am ever going to get better the pathogens that are causing me to be sick have to die. In order to heal, the evil that is inside of me has to die no matter how much it hurts.

How metaphorical. This is exactly what has to happen in our spiritual lives as well. If we are going to let God heal every part of us, the evil parts have to die no matter how painful the process. 2 Timothy 2:11-12 says, “It is a trustworthy statement: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.” If I endure the healing crisis allowing the pathogens to die, I will live. If I endure the spiritual healing crises allowing my old self to die, I will live and reign with Christ. What could be better?

Awhile ago, I asked God what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I just feel so irresponsible and useless and it deeply bothers me that Jason has all the responsibilities while pretty much having a second job caring for me. What I heard God say was, “rest and let Me heal you.” Ok God, maybe I heard You wrong. You know I rest all the time. In fact, I feel like I rest so much that I’m restless!! And I’m pretty sure God said something along the lines of, “bingo!” If your spirit/mind/heart is restless, you are not really resting.

I told my counselor about this and she read the definitions of “rest” to me. Rest is a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities; freedom from activity or labor. I assure you I’ve got that one completely covered. Next, rest is peace of mind or spirit. I do not believe I have ever been at rest inside of myself. I truly don’t know what that feels like but I think God wants to show me. Rest is also a rhythmic silence in music, which speaks to my musical side. Rest is something used as support. I liked this one because I could take it to mean that I need to use God as my support. I also need to lay down my pride and start letting others do things for me without feeling guilty. Not easy! The definition that my counselor read multiple times was “the repose of death.” I really did not like that one because it sounded morbid and I didn’t understand why she kept repeating it. It’s awesome how God plants seeds and then later helps us see the reason. I get it now!! In order to rest and let God heal me, the old me has to die no matter how much the process hurts.

I’ve never been as attached to Psalm 23 as many people are, but I think I’ve fallen in love with it anew and will be camped out in this passage for awhile.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” During this time of rest, God will make sure that I lack nothing that is necessary by His standards, not mine. Just as a shepherd knows what the sheep need, God knows what I need.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” In order for God to restore my soul, I must lie down, be quiet, and listen to Him. Rest.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God has to get rid of the old things that were not leading me down the path He wants for me. And that means those old things must die.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” But while these things die, I do not have to fear because God is with me to comfort me, provide for me, and guide me.

“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” This is the most beautiful part to me. There is rich meaning in anointing oil. Oil can be used for physical and spiritual healing and I find it so perfectly beautiful that it is included in this passage. As I rest, I allow God to pour His healing over me. Another use for anointing oil is to set aside someone for the service of God. I love this. God is using this time to prepare me to serve Him, likely in a way that I have never imagined. The old me is dying so that the new me can be the person He created me to be. I am so excited to see where God takes me!

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God only has goodness and love in store for me. And what better promise could there be than that?

When I allow God to heal me spiritually, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. I do nothing in my own strength. Therefore, I am at rest as I rely on Him. My heart yearns for this healing rest. I also want to be healed physically, as much as the process scares me. So I need help! I need to be surrounded by the support part of rest. I need my brothers and sisters to pray for physical and emotional strength. At this point in my weakness, my 9-pound dog can pull me over. During my weakness, I need to feel God’s presence with me to help me through. I need His perfect love to cast out my fear. Today I stared at the medicine bottles for a good half hour, took a break for an hour, came back, held Jason’s hand and took them, panic and all. There’s a reason they call this a “healing crisis”. But if I’m ever going to heal, I need to let the medicine heal me even when it feels like death. And if I’m going to heal spiritually, I need to let God heal every part of me, no matter how painful it is and how much it takes out of me. Both processes will take nothing from me that I need, only the things that harm me.

There must be a reason this song has been on replay in my house for quite some time, “Oh, Lord I lay it down. Help me to lay it down. Oh, let this be where I die. My Lord, with Thee, crucified. Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall once and for all” (Lauren Daigle). God, I’m ready for the dying part of rest. I’m ready for you to heal me once and for all. I’m ready for my kingdoms to fall and Yours to build. I lay it all down. I trust You! Let the healing come as I rest in You.

"In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." - Isaiah 30:15
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The Beauty of the Rubble

He will show you a new beauty. That’s the post I wrote one year ago when I decided to start naming the beauty I see in the midst of the brokenness. Beauty in the rubble.

I had been in a very dark place before that time. And I’m not saying this year of noticing the beauty has been bright. In fact, it’s possibly been more painful than the last. But slowly it transitioned into a different kind of pain. Instead of drowning in darkness, it has been a pain from which I’m generally able to see the light all around me. I started watching sunsets again. I had stopped doing that. I enjoyed nature again. Instead of constantly doing, I’ve been able to just observe God’s beautiful people at work. When I felt like I was drowning in pain I could look outside of myself and notice beauty.

Noticing the beauty this year helped get me out of my head at least once a day. It’s a scary place in there sometimes. Counting the beauty helped me praise God and notice his gifts. It helped me to see something positive amidst all of the negative. This year was jam-packed full of beauty that I would not have noticed if I had not purposely gone looking for it. God’s gifts to me. Beauty in the rubble.

But, the most surprising thing I have learned is that it is actually possible to see the beauty OF the rubble. Sometimes I may have to squint a little, maybe tilt my head or turn around. Or maybe I can’t see it now but I know I will see it eventually. The rubble is beautiful because of what God is doing with it. He said so in Romans 8:28.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that I only thought of that verse as God working the greater good for other people. I took comfort in the thought that my pain could help others and I definitely still think that can be the case. But I finally realized that God is working it for MY good as well. It’s difficult to see it that way because it doesn’t feel good, but it IS good. It is good for ME… because God said so.

I realized recently that I often thank God for the things I originally begged him to take away. I begged him to let me stay in Tennessee instead of moving back to Pennsylvania for awhile and now those Pennsylvania years are very precious to me. They were some of the last times I spent with my grandparents, among other blessings. I’ve begged God countless times to take away this illness. But if you were to ask me if I wish it had never happened, I would firmly, wholeheartedly say “NO.” This illness has gifted me in unbelievable ways. I can feel God’s presence with me like I had never felt before. I can see how this brokenness is allowing God to mold me into a better person. I can feel it stripping away the things in me that do not matter and slowly putting the broken pieces back where they belonged in the first place. It is a very painful beauty, but a beauty nonetheless. When I finally started pulling myself away from the darkness and started focusing on God, my eyes began to adjust to the Light.

This is certainly a beauty I have never seen before. All I needed to do was turn around.

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Stinky Fish Grace

"But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord." - Jonah 1:3

I grew up learning about Jonah on the felt board in Sunday School. Yes, felt boards, not Smart boards, were the name of our game back then. Jonah is likely one of the first Bible stories we learn because it is so memorable. And what kid wouldn’t love a story about a man being swallowed by a big fish?

Well, of course that kid would have to be me. Ever the odd one, I always kind of worried about Jonah and was grossed out thinking of his three-day surroundings. Then, there’s the lovely visual of the fish vomiting him up. I can hardly even stand to use that word and Jason knows to change the channel at the first hint of visual/audio up-chucking of any sort. This story has never appealed to me in the slightest. But I still felt as if I’d known it inside out (ha, pun not originally intended) since I was a child. I didn’t really think there would be anything more to learn from it, but God always has other plans. I thought I knew it by heart, but He showed me it hadn’t sunk into my heart. Because I now realize, Jonah is my soul-brother.

Jonah disobeyed a direct order from God. I disobey God and He’s been speaking so clearly to me lately, I really have no excuse. Jonah tried to run from God. Boy, do I love my running shoes. Jonah thought he could sleep peacefully after saying “no” to God’s difficult task. I think I have to say “no” to the hard things if I want peace.

But, my storm is coming…

This illness is a storm of sorts. I refused to take care of my health for years. It’s really not a wonder that I’m sick. I ignored the nudges from God to slow down, to grieve, to manage stress, to ask for help. And I was swallowed-up, forced to stop and take care of myself. Forced to cry out to God again.

"In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry" - Jonah 2:2

The fish in which Jonah sat marinating in filth for three days was grace. Stinky fish grace. Grace he did not deserve. He was disobedient and deserved to be tossed around by the storm. But God sent grace in the form of a fish. It was in the dark, rank belly of that fish that Jonah called out to God again and promised to finally obey. And it is from the dark, foul belly of my illness that I found the nearness of God again. My illness is grace. Stinky fish grace, but grace. Beautiful, wonderful, humbling grace that I would have never known otherwise.

Allow me to illustrate this concept further. My days are full of stinky fish grace. Beautiful rubble. We only have one car right now and that means when I need it, I have to get up early and take Jason to work. Less sleep, stressful driving, BUT also togetherness I would otherwise miss. I would have missed kissing him goodbye outside his work today and watching his coworkers greet him in the parking lot. I had to be in Kingsport later anyway for an unpleasant meeting. There wasn’t enough time for me to go home after dropping Jason off so I planned to meet my friend, Robin, to walk. I was early to our meeting place. I could have considered all of this a waste of time, BUT I was able to watch the ducks play in the peace of the stream in the early-morning sun. I met a fellow bench-rester and we watched and shared a laugh at the ducks chasing each other. This man was just visiting his sister from out of state and I gathered he lives alone and doesn’t see his family often. I will likely never see him again but I hope this encounter was as bright a spot in this lonely man’s day as it was in mine. I am thankful for this simple, shared moment with a stranger. A divinely-appointed gift. My friendship with Robin itself is grace born out of illness. I only worked with her for six months and by that time I was so sick I couldn’t hide it very well. Being the great nurse that she is, Robin read me like a book. And I, the person with the iron bars and concrete walls, let her sneak past the gate. She is still a dear friend to me, much attributed to my illness rather than in spite of it. I have other divinely-appointed kindreds due to this wonderful, stinky fish gift of illness. By the time I had to drive back to pick Jason up this afternoon, I was far past my expiration but again, God gifted me. I don’t go many places by myself so I was perhaps overly-excited to be able jam to my very eclectic array of Alathea, Dolly Parton, Savage Garden, and Point of Grace. All I can say is dancing to loud music fends off panic-driving. Thanks be to God. Again, I was gifted with Jason’s presence and recap of his day on the way home. Alas, we still needed groceries and I almost considered it when Jason asked if I needed to ride IN the cart (oops, I mean, buggy). But God gifted another grace in the midst of the stink. I was greeted by my favorite grocery clerk who always smiles, calls me “young lady”, and genuinely wishes me a good day. He always blesses my heart. God always blesses my heart. My disobedient, fearful, run-away, stinky, filth-covered heart. He gives me grace I do not deserve.

IT’S TIME TO THROW ME OVERBOARD.

 

The storm has been raging around me for quite some time, waves pelting me against the rocks, the darkness covering my head, drowning me. Sometimes I’m not sure how I will make it out alive. Is the storm raging around you like this? I am wondering if it might be time for us to embrace the storm. To jump, or ask someone to help throw us overboard. I wonder if by welcoming the dark and painful circumstances, if we would experience God’s peace in the middle of them. To watch God calm the storm around me instead of watching Him calm it from a distance seems that much more powerful. I think I’m ready to be swallowed up by the stinky fish version of grace. Wondrous, mind-blowing, heart-changing grace that I do not deserve in the slightest. Grace that may not look like what we would consider good, but grace that saves us from drowning in our darkness. I want to embrace my less-than-ideal circumstances, believing that God IS working them for good. I don’t want to reject the seemingly stinky gifts anymore because they just may be what saves me. I want to see these gifts as grace. Beautiful, saving grace. It’s time to jump in.

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Peace In the Pain

How do you find words to explain a shift inside a human heart? I’ve been mulling over that question for several days while simultaneously waiting for the back swing. Basically, I don’t trust myself to stay a changed woman but I long for it to stick. This experience may not seem profound to anyone else, but for me it is monumental. It is something I have clung to each passing day since the day I let God change my heart and something I want to keep hold of until I see Jesus face to face.

I ‘formally’ gave my heart to Jesus twenty years ago but, as all of his followers know, we learn more each day about what that really means. And for me lately it has been a clutching, exhausting, grasping, constant, stubborn tug-of-war with my whole heart. I just wouldn’t let God have it. I’d let him have some of it but I didn’t like what he was doing with parts of it so I took them back. The part I simply refused to let go of was pain. I thought if I let God have my whole heart, he might break it by not taking away the pain. I don’t know how else to explain my flawed thinking other than I have been angry about my own pain and the pain of the people I love. I resented God for allowing so much hurt and I doubted his goodness. And then I beat myself up for my faithlessness. I have been in a deep, dark pit of constant ups and downs. One day I would fall down in worship to God and the next I would rage at myself for resenting him. And this roller coaster ride in my heart has centered around a fear of pain.

I can walk next to God and love him for the good things. No problem. I count the beauty in each of my days and genuinely thank him for it. But there is a dark corner of myself where I hide the ugly, wounded, angry, trembling part that I refuse to let God have. I even manage to hide this part from myself at times if you can believe that. See, I told you it was hard to explain. The absolute constant pain in my life and in most other lives would not reconcile in this corner of my heart with a good God.

So, imagine my surprise when the cosmic shift inside of me happened during intense pain. Actually, I believe it had to happen that way in order for God’s light to reach that dark, aching corner of my soul. I had one of the worst migraines of my life and it ebbed and flowed for several days. One beautiful, sunny afternoon I had been in bed for hours, just lying there in my darkened room. I couldn’t read because it hurt. I couldn’t watch TV because it hurt. All I could do was lie there and think about the pain. It would have been very easy for me to rage at God, but truthfully, I didn’t have the energy. So I just started talking to him. I said, “I can’t take this anymore. God, you take it!” And then I started thinking about what I really meant by that. I wanted God to take away my pain. I’ve been struggling to trust him because I don’t understand pain. But this time I decided to ask him to open my heart to what He was trying to teach me and to allow him to love me through the pain. I told him I was too tired to fight anymore and he could have it all. I was done. I’ve said these words before so you can see why I don’t trust myself to allow it to stick, but then I just kept talking. “God, forgive me for the tug-of-war and thank you for that forgiveness and for still loving me and pulling me back toward you even though I fight so hard to keep part of my control.” I handed him the control. I handed him the pain. I finally fully trusted him with the pain. It was unbelievably difficult and through gritted teeth at first but I finally meant what I said. I finally relaxed and let go. I said over and over, “I give you my pain. I trust you with my pain. Thank you for carrying my pain. Do with it whatever will bring you glory. I accept your love for me. I accept your healing of me when and how you see fit. Use my pain. Use this migraine for your glory. Carry my pain. Thank you for how you are working in my pain. Thank you for working good even out of this migraine. Thank you for working in my pain. Thank you for my pain.” Ummmm…. thank you for my pain? I said it, and meant it, before I could take it back! I couldn’t believe what I had just heard myself say and instead of being a punch to the gut, it was like a breath of fresh air. I thanked God for what he is doing in my pain, what he is teaching me in my pain, and how he carries me through the pain.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. - Romans 8:18

After such a profound heart-change, there might be a slight expectation of a miracle, right? I did not experience a miraculous healing but I did experience a miraculous heart healing. God did not take my pain away. But surprisingly, my heart finally understood that it was enough to know that he was finally helping me bear it. I had finally allowed him to have my pain. I realized something that should have been so obvious, but to a raging, wounded child, nothing is obvious. I never wanted to hand God my pain because I was afraid that if I did, he would not take it away and that would break my heart. But how could he take my pain away if I never gave it to him? How could I be angry at him for not taking away a pain that I was still clinging to by my tired and bleeding fingertips? How could I expect him to do anything about my pain if I never actually gave it to him?

It seems like such a simple thing, but it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. Because, there’s no guarantee that once I hand the pain to God that he’s going to take it away. I want a guarantee. I want pain GONE! I would be so happy to never see it peering out of the eyes of anyone I love again. But there is no guarantee of pain removal. Instead, the guarantee is that God will work the pain for good, some way, somehow and, if we let him have it, he will help us carry it.

"Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." - Isaiah 53:5

How could I have believed that God was breaking my heart, especially a heart that I never fully gave him? No, he wants to hold my heart while it’s breaking. He wants to hold me and show me how he will make this good. I trusted God to do what he knows is the best thing for me, even if it means more pain. Then, I started singing. Singing? In tremendous pain, I started singing. Song after song kept pouring from me. Meaningful words from songs I hadn’t remembered in years. I just kept singing to my God. Nothing about my pain changed…but everything about my heart changed. And somehow that made the pain so much easier to bear. It was such a relief to finally be completely dependent on God. After the songs stopped, I just listened for awhile and I felt a weight of comfort holding me and the pain greatly diminished. It was still there but knowing God was holding me took the sharp sting of bitterness away.

Sun rays are a reminder to me of God’s presence and at that moment I suddenly knew that I would look outside and see them. I crawled out of my dark cave and peeked out the window to see the most gorgeous rays. The sun rays were an extra gift from God straight to my heart, but the biggest gift was how present he was in my pain. The sun rays lasted just a few moments but his presence is always with me.

Later, Jason said I looked like a different person when I came downstairs and I want to be! I want to have stepped out of the darkness and into the Light for good. I want to have crossed from the depths of death to abundant Life, fully trusting in God. It’s amazing how much freedom is felt when you give your heart away. It seems like it should be the opposite, but God’s ways are more beautiful than our limited understanding. Since that time it has been as if God has slowly breathed new life back into me. Sure, it is a daily, moment by moment battle with myself to give it up again and stop worrying about my pain and other people’s pain. I still constantly have to stop and remind myself to let go and give the current pain or worry to God. But I now know how badly I want to rely on God and let him be my strength. I know that each pain and worry is an opportunity to experience God again. So, I thank him for the pain. I cling to him. As long as I am clinging to God with all of my strength, I won’t have anything left with which to cling to my control and pain. I’d rather expend my energy holding tightly to God. It’s the only way to have peace in the pain.

“One day soon, we’ll see His face and every tear He’ll wipe away. No more pain or suffering. Oh, praise Him for the mercy tree. Death has died. Love has won. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” – Lacey Sturm, Mercy Tree

Carry Me, Lord (Listen to the song here)

Weary from a burden that's too heavy
Oh, just carry me, Lord
Finally ready to let you be strong when I'm weak
Oh, just carry me, Lord

I give up the fight
It was never mine
And I will choose to wait for you
I'll sit by your side
In the still of the night
Knowing God, you'll see me through

Hurting, stumbling blindly on this crooked way
Oh, just carry me, Lord
But you heal me, washing my feet, make my path straight
Oh, just carry me, Lord

I lay down my will
And I'll be still
And I'll let you have your way
What you want for me
Is more than I could dream
And one day I'll hear you say

'I have won your fight
Can you see the light?
And I have cleared the path for you
You let me take your hand
And help you understand
I have always carried you
My child, I carried you.'
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Lyme Disease – The War is On!

I have Lyme Disease. I sat here for awhile trying to figure out how to start this so I thought I’d just come right out and say it. After years of searching, many tests, too many unsuccessful treatments, countless dollars, blood (so much blood!), sweat, and tears, it seems that we finally know the core of what we’re fighting. I say “it seems” because I’ve gotten my hopes up and crushed so many times that it’s difficult to let myself believe that we may have finally gotten to the bottom of it.

Many people think that Lyme will be cured with a round of antibiotics but, once Lyme has been hanging out in a body for a long time, it becomes what is referred to as Chronic Lyme Disease or Post-treatment Lyme Disease (in my case, without the original treatment) and antibiotics are useless, even potentially dangerous. I also have one of the most common Lyme co-infections, Mycoplasma Pneumoniae. These little “bugs”, for lack of a better word, do not have a cell wall, which renders them completely resistant to most antibiotics. They can also fit pretty much anywhere they want and “hide”, making it very difficult to get rid of them. It’s important to me that people understand why this is going to be such a difficult journey so I would love it if you read this article on Lyme and Mycoplasma for further understanding. It appears that the Lyme treatment covered by insurance is antibiotics and antibiotics will not work for me. Life cannot be simple, but I believe that’s when God works in the biggest ways.

It always takes me awhile to process things so if I’m a complete wreck for awhile, please excuse me! I received the news Monday and wrote the first draft of this blog but then I pretty much shut down/broke down. Now, since you’ll be seeing me share Lyme articles all over Facebook in an effort to learn and teach, I guess it’s time to go public. Here are only some of the emotions I can put into words:

Anger. I am allowing myself to be angry for awhile. Yes, I’m angry that this happened and that I did not notice a tick bite. Ticks can be very tiny, bite, and then drop off without being noticed. But mostly I’m angry at the doctors who dismissed me. I have drained our resources going from one doctor to the next only for them to tell me I was fine. I am angry that I was made to feel crazy by those who told me it was all in my head. I am angry at a medical system that doesn’t cover proper testing. In case you are not aware, traditional Lyme testing only catches 56% of Lyme cases. And insurance very often does not cover the appropriate testing. Again, I stand by my view that no one profits from people who are healthy so testing and treatments that will make them well are not covered. No one will ever convince me otherwise and I will be angry about and fight against this pure evil crime against humanity until the day I die.

Back to the doctors. Where would I be if I had listened to them? I shudder to think. I would be on so many drugs! And they wouldn’t know about my gene mutation (MTHFR) that makes me more sensitive to chemicals so they would have certainly caused much more harm than good. My symptoms would only continue to be covered up as they multiplied, rather than finding the root cause. Oh, and I would not have had a Lyme test at all because, as my Rheumatologist said, “there’s no Lyme in Tennessee”.  Well, dear doctor, I’d like to introduce you to EXHIBIT ME.

And, where would I be if the doctors had listened to me? I would not have been made to feel crazy. I would have been tested, and therefore, treated, far sooner. My diseases would not have progressed and likely caused permanent damage to my body. I may not have lost my job and tanked our resources. I sure as heck would be a lot less stressed! So much needless worry for my family. But, enough with the “if onlys”. Dwelling in “if onlys” helps nothing and is very toxic to the mental state. God can, and will, use the bad to make good… always!

Happy. I am so happy, actually ECSTATIC, to finally have an answer! Though I wish it wasn’t necessary, I am happy to be one more case proving to the medical professionals that they need to take their patients more seriously. I am happy to be an example to people who take what their doctors say as gospel and encourage them to be the expert in their own bodies. I’ve been the exception to many of my doctors’ preconceptions and I make certain to go back and inform them for the sake of others. I like to think that those doctors may not be so hasty to dismiss in the future. I took one… or ten… for the team. You’re welcome, TN!

Sad. I am so sad for the life I have lost. Granted, I could have handled the situation better, but I have tried! I’m sad for those who don’t have the resources to get proper testing and treatment, who don’t have loved ones who would cut off their own body parts if they thought it would make them better. I’m sad for the people who don’t know they can question their doctors.

Afraid. I’m afraid to get my hopes up again. My doctor is putting all of her faith in this treatment. She believes it will heal everything – my malabsorption and anemia, my Sjogren’s, depression/anxiety, perhaps even my thyroid. I’m terrified of being crushed again. I’m afraid of the potentially grueling treatment. I’m afraid it will come back or I’ll be bitten again but she will put me on a preventive herb after I complete the treatment. I’m afraid I have already, or will give it to Jason. Yes, it is very possible to transmit Lyme to your partner. We will eventually have to get him tested too.

Determined. I am determined to give this my all. I will be eating a completely clean diet minus eggs (due to a sensitivity), which isn’t a whole lot different than what I’ve been doing already. I can certainly do this if it means helping the treatment protocol be most effective. I am determined to feel what it’s like to be healthy. I truly do not remember the feeling of “good”, and when I finally get to answer the “how are you” question with “good” again, I may burst into happy tears.

Hopeful. Despite my resistance to hope, I can’t fight it. It’s creeping into my heart. I am hopeful that I will be well again. This was my last try. I had said that if this test came back negative, I was done. And my doctor wouldn’t have known what else to try anyway. I kept singing “Thy will be done”, even if I wasn’t exactly sure I meant it. If the test had come back negative, my fight was over. If I had been tested for Lyme first, my body may not have been able to handle the treatment. I was so weak. Other treatments have helped me heal some and who knows, maybe now my body is finally ready to fight this. Though I am not at all pleased to have Lyme, God knew I needed an answer and he finally gave me one.

Thankful. I am so thankful for my brain and my willingness to question and advocate for my own body. I am incredibly thankful for the doctors who do listen and who don’t give up on me. I am thankful for the ones who were willing to rebel against the system with me. I am thankful for the people in my life who have helped me get to this point. I am overwhelmed with emotion when I thank God for a husband who walks beside and suffers with me, for parents who would bleed dry if they thought it would make me better, and for the dear friends who hold my hand, listen to my meltdowns, and encourage me daily to take another step. I could not do this life without any of you! I am so thankful for the prayers offered on my behalf. It overwhelms me to think of people going to God for me. I am thankful for God and his timing. It is never mine, but always best. I know that I will look back on this journey and see God making much beauty out of rubble. God is really the One fighting this war, and I am very excited to see how he is going to do it!

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

I have made this sound like a closure letter, and in some ways maybe it is. I know the thing we are fighting. But, a fight it will be for sure! I covet your constant prayers! I did not expect to have such an emotional reaction to this news and I am really struggling to not lose my mind…which is why I laughed when I found out the Celebrate Recovery lesson last night was on sanity. Well-played, God! I could not have fathomed the expense of treatment, which is not covered by insurance, so my doctors and I are still trying to figure out what I’m going to do. Please pray that God will provide. Pray that God will strengthen my immune system to fight this. Pray that the side effects and die off symptoms will be tolerable. Pray that my depression and anxiety will not overshadow my determination. Thank you so much for reading and walking beside me through this. And thank you, God, for hearing our prayers!

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Strength for Crooked Paths

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Understanding. I am obsessed with it. I NEED to know why things are. I love rules and quickly get lost in gray areas. I lean so heavily on my own understanding that I very often wander down the crooked path of “Why?” The age-old question of, “Why does a God of love allow so much pain?” plagues me more often than I care to admit. It’s sometimes accompanied by, “What is our purpose in life?”, and “Why did God even create us in the first place?”

I want things my way or no way. I don’t want to acknowledge God in the gray areas with a faithful, “God is God and I am not” mindset. I want Him to take AWAY the gray areas so that I can be more comfortable.

I’ve been studying Isaiah 45. It’s a beautiful passage about God moving King Cyrus to build a temple for Him in Jerusalem. Much opposition surrounded the building of the temple, but the people of God pressed on in spite of their fear (Ezra 3:3). When only the foundation was completed, the people gave such a great shout of joy and praise that it could be heard from far away (Ezra 3:11, 13). They clearly cared more about accomplishing a task for God than they feared the uncertainty of the people around them. The king of Assyria tried to oppose the building, but God changed his attitude so that he not only stopped opposing them, but he actually assisted them with the process (Ezra 6:22). God said, “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight” (Isaiah 45:13). Would you look at that!? Cyrus acknowledged God and God made his paths straight! Sound familiar? In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

But, what if I don’t acknowledge God…because I want so badly to lean on my own understanding? What if I am too afraid of the unknown to let God be God? Here’s the answer. “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me” (Isaiah 45:5). This verse brought me to my knees. God will strengthen me, even when I don’t acknowledge Him. When I am wandering the crooked paths of fear and “why?”, God is still giving me strength for my wanderings. HE IS STILL OFFERING ME STRENGTH EVEN WHEN I AM QUESTIONING HIS WAYS.

When God leads me on His straight path, it definitely doesn’t always feel like the easiest way. During times of uncertainty, instead of allowing Him to take my right hand (Isaiah 45:1) and lead me, I start flailing in anger and fear, trying to get away from the Glorious methods I don’t have the capacity to understand. In my struggle, I actually hurt myself more, fumbling around in the dark through the jagged, mountainous terrain. If only I will stop trying to understand Ways that are much higher than my ways, if only I will take God’s hand in trust, acknowledging that He knows better, the power of what God will do for me is staggering. God says, “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:2-3).

God will level the mountains of our trials, cut the bars of our bondage, help us find treasures in the darkness, and He calls us personally by name as He leads us on the straight path. But even when we wander down the crooked path of fear and questioning, He still gives us strength. What kind of Love is this?

“All the way back, she had imagined him gloating and taunting, rubbing her face in her own broken pride. Instead, he knelt before her and washed her dirty, blistered feet.” This part of my favorite book, Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers, pierces my heart every time. I imagine myself wandering around in the darkness in fear, feet catching the sharp rocks, tripping over the questions and doubts, covered in the dirt that I throw at God when I don’t like something He’s doing. And yet, because God loves me more than I can fathom, He still gives me enough strength through the crooked path to make it back to Him, crawling and broken, groveling in the dirt, face to the ground before the Almighty God. I deserve my wounds rubbed in my pride, fear, and doubt. I deserve the mud I’ve flung to be flung right back at me exponentially. But instead, Jesus kneels down on the jagged, dirty rocks of the crooked path, washes my filthy, doubting, wandering feet, takes me by the right hand and leads me down the straight path.

Strength for the crooked path. Strength for the straight path. I’d rather take the straight path and be led by the One who knows the way. Help me, Jesus. Amen.

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He Is Risen, Indeed

I brought spices to Jesus’ grave because I thought he was gone (Mark 16:1). I had forgotten what he said (Luke 24:6). I took spices in mourning and defeat, wondering how I would push the heavy, stone-like burden away (Mark 16:3).

I’ve got to be honest with you. This Holy Week has been hard for me. This time means so much to me and I usually try to attend all possible worship services. I love being reminded of the meaning of it all and the deep connection I feel to Jesus during this time. But life has seemed to kick us while we’re down and I’ve not allowed God to help me withstand the blows. I’m weary.

Life’s circumstances have caused us to miss many things, including numerous Sundays at church. All my life, I’ve been there every time the doors were open until this illness. I only made it through fifteen minutes last Sunday and we made it approximately zero minutes of the Good Friday service. This was only a small fraction of the things weighing on my heart and I was deeply grieved, mourning for what might have been: a powerful, touch-and-heal me kind of Savior, the kind who rescues in the way that I imagine he will (Luke 24:21). I braced myself for Sunday. I was tempted to not even set an alarm because somehow not planning to go to church on Resurrection Sunday meant less disappointment than planning to go without being able to do so.

I awoke this morning sometime in the 4:00 hour with an agonizing stomach pain. Jason awoke several hours later with an agonizing eye pain from an old abrasion that had re-opened. I’m not sure if I’ve seen him in so much pain. I took care of him, blacking out the windows, and tore myself away from him to go to church by myself. I prayed the whole way that God would be my strength and let me feel his presence with me. And I walked in with an agonizing heart pain.

I walked in with my spices, mourning for a Savior who didn’t rescue me. I walked in with the worry and weight of a heavy stone I thought I needed to roll.

Then, an angel said, “Good morning! He is risen” (Matthew 28:6)! And another took my hand, looked me in the eye, saw my pain and said a version of, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5). Still another, face lit with God’s love, embraced me with gladness. I stood with the rest of the disciples (Matthew 28:17), crying outside the empty tomb, wondering what had happened (John 20:11). Wondering where my Jesus had gone. “You are the only King forever”, so where are you?

Later, I was walking along the path. I did not feel Jesus’ presence with me. I did not know that he had been walking with me the whole time (Luke 24:15-16).

Then, Jesus said my name (John 20:16). He said my name and my eyes were opened. My name, on the lips of a risen Savior. My eyes were opened and my mind recalled the words of Jesus (Luke 24:8). I clung to his feet and worshiped him (Matthew 28:9). I worshiped Jesus on the mountain. He broke bread with me and I recognized him, heart burning within me (Luke 24:30-32). He reached out his arms and held me. He was not angry that I had doubted and he invited me to touch and see (Luke 24:39).

Then, Jesus asked me if I love him and I said, “yes”. I said, “yes, yes”, over and over, “yes”. I was hurt that he kept asking me until I remembered how often I denied him with disbelief (John 21:15-17). Jesus, I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24)! Jesus said he had to suffer and then enter into glory (Luke 24:26). If I have to suffer, it is for God’s glory, and I want that. God, be glorified! In my eagerness to be with Jesus, I want to run to the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). I want to jump into the water and swim to shore (John 20:7). I want to cast off the burdensome stone and let God roll it away. I was afraid I would take my life back into my own hands again, like so many other times. And a prayer that refused NOT to be prayed left my lips, a prayer that stopped me in my tracks, pierced my heart and left me breathless. I asked God not to take my pain away until the moment it will give Him the greatest possible glory. One of the most difficult prayers I have prayed, but one that has given me hope again. Hope that whatever happens to us will be used for God’s glory.

I have been looking for the Living among the dead (Luke 24:5). I have been overwhelmed by the darkness hiding what God is doing. I have been living in a second day world without hope in our third day God (based on Curtis Booher’s sermon). God’s rays of Light bursting through the darkness reminded me that his Presence has always, and will always, be with me.

My hope was hanging by a thread this morning. And, to be honest, I will probably need reminded of this day more often than should be necessary. Maybe writing it down will help me remember the nearness of God when the darkness overwhelms. Jesus told me not to be afraid anymore (Matthew 28:10). He told me I could lay down my spices and stop pushing the stone. He told me He is with me always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He told me He is in Heaven at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). He offered me peace (Luke 24:36). He gave me hope for this In Between. He Is Risen, indeed.

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The In Between

Deep, excruciating grief. That’s how I imagine Jesus’ disciples felt the day after they watched their Savior die.

Savior. Perhaps they weren’t even able to call Jesus a Savior on that Saturday. They pictured a mighty king sweeping in to conquer their enemies and rescue them. Instead, their Savior died.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Defeated and disappointed. Perhaps even a bit betrayed. Where is this peace you promised, Jesus? Overcome the world? The world just murdered you! They believed Jesus was the one who would make everything right again… and then they watched him die an excruciating death. When the mockers told Jesus to prove them wrong and come down from the cross, did the disciples secretly beg him to come down too? Or did they even believe that was possible? Was the one they loved really gone forever?

Loved. The disciples loved Jesus and he loved them. He was their teacher and they deeply loved him. They did not understand what was happening. The one person they had come to rely on had been taken from them. My heart breaks with their unimaginable grief.

All of these feelings in the In Between. And they were forced to rest. It was the Sabbath so they could do no work. They could not keep busy. Instead, they had to think about it. They had to feel the full weight of it all. Grief, defeat, disappointment, betrayal, sadness, love. They had to just sit… and wait.

Sometimes I have a vision of the way Jesus will rescue me and he doesn’t do it. I am disappointed and deeply grieved. The In Between is hard. It’s amazing how tiring just sitting and waiting can be. I’m tired of getting my hopes up for something that doesn’t happen. And I am often just forced to rest and think about it, to feel the full weight of it all. I’m tempted to give up hope. I’m not proud to say there are times I have given up hope.

But I know something the disciples didn’t understand. I know how the story ends. I know my Savior is not dead, but alive. I know my grief will turn to joy. I will forget this anguish because Jesus has overcome. I have hope in the In Between. Jesus always does the best things for us, no matter how painful, even unt0 death.

"I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." - John 16:20-22

I’m sure many of you are right here with me, begging Jesus to come back, on your faces in agony, pleading with him to end the waiting. We miss our Home, the physical presence of our Friend, and the comfort of unspeakable Joy. I grieve with and for you too. The In Between is hard. The full weight of it all overwhelms. But sometimes we have to feel the full weight of the pain to understand the fullness of the Joy. We will get through it together. Because we know the outcome. Take heart. Take Jesus’ heart. He is the strength of our hearts. He has not betrayed us and he is not defeated! Joy is coming and won’t ever be taken away. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

I Wait For You

God, remember when
You said you'd lift my head
Well, I'm bowed to the ground
In wait for you
God, you promised good
As only you could
Oh but God, where are you now?
I wait for you.

How long will I wait?
How much more can I take?
Oh God, do you hear my cries?
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
I wait for you.

God, you said you'd fight
If I would just hold tight
Well, my strength is wearing thin
I wait for you
God, you said you'd be 
A shield around me
But I'm bruised and broken down
I wait for you.

How long will I wait?
How much more can I take?
Oh God, do you hear my cries?
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
I wait for you.

God, I do believe
That you're still holding me
And this desert path I walk
I walk with you
God, until the day
You reveal to me your ways
I will thank you for the gift
Of waiting for you.

There's beauty in the wait
So I will give you praise
Oh God, you will be my strength
Through the land of suffering
I will count all the blessings
And know that there's meaning
In waiting for you.

Oh God, I know you hear my cries
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
While I wait for you.
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Dancing in the Freedom

Ballet is something near and dear to my heart. I spent 12 years of my life in class and on stage. I miss it more than I can say.

Anybody recognize Sebastian the Crab? Oh, maybe not without the claws. Trust me, the claws existed. I just wasn’t wearing them. Or how about a little Colors of the Wind, with too much makeup and a silly brother who may hurt me for this picture? It’s amazing that I still remember the songs that matched the costumes.

And finally, because I don’t want to continue boring you with my reminiscing, here is a Lady in Waiting.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always so dedicated to the world of dance. In fact, I didn’t get serious until a couple of years before the end, which meant I wasn’t nearly as good as I could have been. Much to my later regret, I fell into the dreaded trap of peer pressure. You see, I was part of a… let’s say… rebellious class. I don’t know if most of the parents just forced their daughters to attend or what, but the class jokers would take over and everyone else was supposed to be distracted and laugh. It became particularly awful when we got old enough to start dancing en pointe, which was my favorite way of dancing. But, did I admit my love for pointe to the class clowns? Of course not! It was during this time that I received the nickname, “Pavlova”, after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian dancer. But, don’t be fooled. This nickname was meant derogatorily. I was considered…shall we say… “uncool” because I was apparently abnormally skilled at putting on my pointe shoes. Dancers will understand that the proper way of putting on pointe shoes is an art in and of itself. It was a silly unwritten rule in our class that the first one with their toe shoes tied was a loser so no one wanted to be the loser. I cannot possibly explain how much time we foolishly wasted trying NOT to be first. When our teacher would walk in to see if we were ready yet, we all pretended we were still tying our shoes. This sounds utterly ridiculous but it gets worse. I specifically remember one day we took so long that we never had enough time for the actual class. That was the low point, pun intended.

I’ve been trying to recall what flipped the switch in us and made us actually start trying and taking dance seriously. I think it was a combination of the class clown quitting and the rest of us joining with another, much more mature class. It pains me to think of the skills I lack because of my tremendous fear of what other people would think of me. Dancing is freedom to me. Freedom of expression and freedom of self. And I was a slave to others, who didn’t care a bit about me.

I’d love to say that my mindset has changed, but sadly, it hasn’t. I still have the same, overwhelming fear of how other people view me. I am a slave to people instead of to God. I have honestly never really grasped what it means to truly own the fact that I am God’s child. His perception of me should be the only perception that matters to me… ever.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I am loved by God. Do I just hear that so often that the full weight of that statement escapes me? Admittedly, I have been following the pattern of this world, but always with a longing in my heart for something better. Something that would set me free. Something I have always known but too afraid to grasp.

Perhaps the most disturbing portrayal of bowing under pressure from others is found in Mark 15, Verse 15.

"Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barrabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." 

Can you imagine participating so fully in the death of the Son of God simply because of pressure? I can. I do it every day. Every moment I care more about what other people think of me than what Jesus thinks of me, I hammer the nail a little further. I smash the crown of thorns a little harder. Every moment that I hold back the personality and expression that God has created in me, I spit in Jesus’ face. Oh, my heart aches to write these words!

I am slowly, painfully realizing just how much I have allowed others to influence me and how much self-loathing I have allowed into my heart. How can a child of God be so utterly wrong about who she is? I’m sure there will be other posts as I continue to crawl out of this pit. As I slowly, painfully, remorsefully clean and kiss the wounds I’ve caused in my Savior. I cannot wait until the day I no longer care what other people think of me, I can wear the name, “child of God”, and even “Pavlova”, proudly, and I no longer have the ache of self-hatred and fear in my heart. I cannot wait to dance in freedom with Jesus. It’s Friday now, with all of its darkness and chains. But I see a glimmer of light and I cannot wait to dance on Sunday!

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