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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The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

I remember the day well. It was the one and only time I was put on the witness stand at a court hearing. Sure, I’d been sworn in many times and had given updates on the progress of the teenagers on my caseload from my seat in the crowd. No problem. But to actually be put on the stand was a first. Not to mention, this was without a word of warning or preparation. It was a different type of hearing than the normal progress report. This was an attempt to get my client’s record expunged, but since I was only a contracted therapist and not part of the Department of Children’s Services, I expected to answer the usual, “How’s his progress in the program” from my seat and simply just watch the rest of the proceedings. So imagine my surprise when I heard the other party’s attorney call me to the stand.

I raised my right hand, swore to tell the truth, and haltingly stated my name and relation to the client. It was incredibly intimidating. I had never met this attorney in my life. I had never been present when he or the case worker discussed the case. I had never had anything to do with the legal aspect of this kid’s life except to be his therapist. And yet, the attorney proceeded to completely thrash me. He questioned my competence by forcing me to read an assessment that I had never seen before out loud and tried to make me interpret it even though I was completely unqualified to do so. He asked confidential questions about our therapy sessions, trying to get me to offer information even though neither I nor my notes had been subpoenaed. He paced back and forth for show and threw his hands up every time I answered a question as if my answers were ridiculous. I allowed him to make me feel like the worst social worker in existence.

When I was finally dismissed from the stand I just knew that I had hindered my client’s chances. I felt like I had completely messed everything up and I was sure I had ruined his life. Thankfully, by some divine intervention, the judge saw through all the hype the attorney was creating and ruled in our favor anyway. He didn’t have to do it, but he even offered a word of encouragement to me by way of informing the attorney that it was unnecessary for him to “completely ream the poor [social] worker.” Despite the favorable ruling, utter defeat must have been written all over my face because as we left the courtroom the bailiff whispered to me, “Smile, it’s not so bad”.

Even though the judge still ruled in our favor, I was not the same after that. I allowed that attorney to shatter any confidence in my ability that I had possessed. I questioned my effectiveness as a therapist and I questioned my career choice. I questioned myself as a competent person. When I think of that day, I’m still tempted to pick it apart in an attempt to figure out everything I did wrong. That attorney’s sole purpose was to make me look like a fool in order to win his case. He didn’t care that it would ruin a teenager’s life and cause an innocent person to question her entire career.

I’ve been reading “The Bondage Breaker”, by Neil T. Anderson, and when I got to the chapter called “Accused by the Father of Lies”, Anderson’s description of Satan took me straight back to the memory of that day in the courtroom. “In Christ we are important, we are qualified, we are loved. Satan can do absolutely nothing to alter our position in Christ and our worth to God. But he can render us virtually inoperative if he can deceive us into listening to and believing his insidious lies accusing us of being of little value to God or other people” (Anderson). If we let them, accusations from Satan can paralyze us with feelings of worthlessness. We can believe there is no hope for us and we can become completely ineffective in our walk. Anderson says, “But Satan is not your judge; he is merely your accuser. Yet if you listen to him and believe him, you will begin to live out these accusations as if they were a sentence you must serve.” The attorney was not my judge, and yet I allowed what he said to impact my life in much deeper ways than the judge’s favorable ruling and encouragement of me. Satan is not my judge either. God has already expunged my record through Jesus and yet I often live weighed down by the accusations and lies Satan feeds me that make me question my worth.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I’m sorry/not sorry to the attorney that I will never read this verse again without picturing him in my mind. The way he paced back and forth in that courtroom in an attempt to devour me is just too menacingly similar to ignore. And unfortunately, I allowed the attorney to devour me. I believed his accusations that I was a completely incompetent and worthless social worker. The judge had taken up for me and put the attorney in his place, but I still let it cast a shadow on the rest of my career. In the same way, we often allow Satan to devour us. We believe his accusations that we are worthless and our lives don’t matter. His goal is to make us ineffective and he succeeds more often than he should. Our Judge has taken up for us and our Defense Attorney, Jesus, “has never lost a case before God the judge” (Anderson), but we still let the accusations cast a shadow on our lives.

Well, I think it’s time to fight back with the truth. Jesus has already won our case and we belong to God, but Satan’s lies can render our ministries (and we all have one) ineffective if we believe them. But when we hear his lies, I’m learning that we have to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When a lie about our identity or worth comes into our minds, we need to capture it, throw it out, and combat it with the truth that we are children of God and have mind-blowing worth in His eyes. We have already been set free from bondage because Jesus took all our guilt. Our records are clean. We need to swear to tell the truth to ourselves and stop believing the lies. When we live in the truth, our ministries will not be stifled. Instead, they will thrive in the light of the gifts God has already given us for those ministries.

So, smile! Jesus has already won our case. Hallelujah!

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How Do I Keep Forgetting?

How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep forgetting it is well? Ann Voskamp calls it “chronic soul-amnesia” and boy, have I got it bad.

I may have told the story before, but my chronic soul-amnesia needs to hear it again. I’m not sure how I’m alive to tell of the Fall of 2015. I was already sick and losing weight due to undiagnosed autoimmune disease when I contracted pertussis. When I have a cold, I may feel like I’m dying for a few days to a week but then life goes on. But this time I coughed non-stop for fifteen weeks. I gave myself mouth sores and I’m certain I rotted my teeth from all the cough drops I constantly consumed day and night. I coughed so much I gagged and couldn’t breathe. When I did try to work, I would find my coworkers standing outside the bathroom making sure I came out of a coughing fit alive. I barely slept. I was so weak and sick. I truly thought I was dying. I made sure I had life insurance and things were in order. I hadn’t started writing letters to loved-ones but it did enter my thoughts and if I had possessed the energy, I would have done so.

I would sit up nights on the couch listening to worship music, sometimes begging God to take me home. It was during one such sleepless night that God introduced me to the song, It Is Well, by Kristene DiMarco. I found myself sob-coughing, lifting my hands in full worship, “Let go, my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know his name.” The miracle is not that I discovered the song. The miracle is that in the midst of truly believing I was dying, hardly able to breathe or sleep, God helped me worship with this song and mean it. How do I keep forgetting it is well with my soul?

My chronic soul-amnesia often comes in the form of fear. Fear of the unknown, of uncertainty, of pain, of vulnerability. Sometimes I’m nearly paralyzed by fear. But God’s perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). God is strong in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). How do I keep forgetting? How do I keep forgetting it is well? How do I keep forgetting that, though the earth gives way, God is my ever-present help? (Psalm 46:1-2) It is very well with my soul.

My fear has become particularly debilitating lately. I haven’t been doing very well at laying my burdens down without picking them right back up again. I often walk up to the mountain, as I call it, and attempt to release my burdens. Last Saturday, I cried out to God on the mountain. I laid down my burdens before him and I sang to him. God often gives me songs to sing on the mountain when I can think of nothing else to say, and that day he gave me How Great Thou Art. I was struggling to leave my burdens there in peace so I continued to sing it over and over all the way down the mountain. Because this is how God speaks to me, I knew that we would sing How Great Thou Art the next day in church. When we did, I just smiled and felt incredibly loved by a God who cares about my burdens. Who am I that he would pay so much attention to me? How do I keep forgetting? It is very well with my soul.

I’ve had a pain in my side for more than a month now. I feel like I have a literal thorn in my side, a big one! Ultrasound, X-rays, CT show nothing. And yet it is always there, lurking, sometimes able to be ignored, sometimes excruciating. Much of my illness is puzzling in general. Kind of like my chronic soul-amnesia, it never leaves. Sometimes I fear what this pain means. But perfect love casts out fear. On the mountain of the Lord, He provides his songs for me to fight the fear and pain. It is well with my soul. This pain in my side meets the one in Jesus’ side and shared pain means less fear and more healing. Jesus endured pain for the intimacy of a relationship with me. Through unknown pain, I experience dependence on God. Through uncertainty, God is constant. Unless I allow it, fear has no power over me when Christ is living in me. Jesus’ wounds heal my wounds. It is very well with my soul.

 

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Haters Gonna Hate, Especially on Valentine’s Day

I wrote this on February 14, 2014:

To all of the haters on Valentine’s Day,

I have needed to write this note for some time now, though you probably will not believe me. There was a time when I would not have believed me. I was once one of you. Anyone who knew me before a couple years ago can vouch for that. Love just seemed so- what’s the word? – fake, gross, cheesy, elusive, impossible. I was the first one to gag at all forms of affection – every. single. time. Speaking of single, I was happy. I’m not kidding about that. Though there were definitely times that I thought it would be really nice to have a significant other (like when invited to weddings, needing a back rub, needing someone to open a jar, etc), I was completely ok with living life without a husband. Funny how we start to wonder about singles in their upper 20s… as if they are reaching their expiration date. I was incredibly blessed to feel complete in God. He is the one who completes me and makes me who I am supposed to be. A man would just be icing on an already-beautiful and fulfilling cake. I found it offensive when the little old man at church would ask me if I’ve found a man yet, or the other one who, instead of simply saying “hello”, grabbed my ring finger and asked “why is this empty?” – as if I could control that? I’m not exaggerating. Those scenarios actually happened. I wanted to scream to the world – What are we telling those who are single??!! They are incomplete and destined to be unhappy? And most sadly, that God is not enough. I wanted to, and probably should have, confronted the elder in the church who would ask why I don’t have a man. I wanted to ask him why he feels the need to infer that I am somehow incomplete. What kind of message is that sending? What kind of message is all of this sending? Well, I’ll tell you. Here are just a few of the lies that I was told, either by myself or by others who thought they were helping.

1.  “There is someone out there waiting for you”. – Umm, how do you know? What if God’s plan for me was to live out my days with Him only. Like I said, I felt complete, but the people telling me this lie only sowed seeds of doubt. Maybe I wasn’t complete after all. Now I want to tell people in general to stop saying this. It does not help, and it may not even be true. Only God knows. So please stop saying this.

2.  “You will not be fully you without a man” (a.k.a. “I am incomplete without a mate”). – This is one of the most, if not THE most dangerous lie. I believe 100% that until a person is able to just be single without feeling like life is over, they will never feel complete with a mate either. They will be more likely to worship their mate instead of God. This is beyond dangerous. Of course I had my doubts and have not always been as close to God as I should, but I knew that a man could never fill a place in my life that was meant for God. It’s just not possible.

3.  “You need to lower your standards or you will never find love.” – Yes, I was actually told this several times. I did not consider my standards unreasonable – male, never been married, no kids, loves Jesus, college degree, life experience, never had an intimate relationship, sense of humor, etc, etc. If I had lowered my standards, it would mean I did not respect myself enough to uphold my God-given desires. But then I actually started to believe the lie that this man does not exist, which leads me to Lie #4.

4.  “There are NO good men in the world. At all. None. Period.” – I fully believed that all of the men who met the above description were taken. There was not a single one left for me. Though men like this are very difficult to come-by, I’m willing to at least entertain the possibility that there is a man out there thinking the same thing you are thinking. There was a man like this for me, despite all odds!  If you told me this a few years ago I would have laughed… and gagged… and laughed some more. Funny how things change.

5.  “There must be something wrong with me… since I haven’t had a boyfriend in 10 years.”  -Though I was happy and complete, there were still some days that I would wonder what must be wrong with me. I mean, no one had even really shown interest in years. Was I that unapproachable, strange, scary, ugly? No, it just wasn’t time yet. I needed to fall in love with God first. During this time I wrote a song called My First Love. Some of the words are “Lord, I know you long to be my first love. Your arms around me show me that you are enough. Fill me with you before you give me to him. Ready my heart to let someone in. Prepare me for the one you’re preparing for me.” Little did I know he was preparing me, and he was also preparing Jason for what was to come.

6.  And the final lie: “It is not possible to wait for intimacy.” – We live in an over-sexed world. Nothing is left to the imagination or to the bedroom with your husband. It’s all out in the open, thrown in your face with a loud, “you’re-crazy-if-you-think-waiting-is-best”! A lie I often told myself was that there is no man who has never had sex before. He doesn’t exist. It’s just not possible and, the older I get, the less likely it is that I will find one. This ties into the “lowering your standards” lie. I am here to tell you, this is a bold-faced lie. You do NOT have to lower your standards. Don’t you dare let people tell you that your heart’s desire is wrong. God gave you the true desires of your heart. It will never be worth-it to compromise them.

As it turned out, there was someone out there waiting for me, much to my surprise. I was blessed to be completed by God and blessed to get my icing on the cake too! I did not have to lower a single standard because, in fact, Jason far exceeded my standards. He is a good man, and he gave me hope that there actually are good men in the world. There was nothing wrong with me. I just had to wait until God allowed Jason to walk into my life. There is a perfect time for everything.

So to all the haters – go ahead and gag, I deserve it! But also try to take some of this to heart, as it comes from the de-throned Queen of all haters! And to all the liars – just stop. Please realize that you are hurting instead of helping. And to everyone who chooses to read this – Happy Valentine’s Day, gags and all! Enjoy today, as it is just a day. Love is all year ’round.

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The Sin of Humility

“You must be struggling.” That’s what my friend said to me after she noticed I’d been kind of quiet on Facebook lately. Good grief. Even when I think I’m hiding it, God always uses someone or something to break through my walls anyway.

The Sin of Comparison

Struggling is such a relative term to me. But it really shouldn’t be. This is how my thought process goes. Yes, I have an illness, but I know other people who have far worse illnesses that they’ve fought far longer than I have. I’m not struggling. I know several people who have been in the hospital for a long period of time. I’m not struggling. This person over here is dealing with an abusive marriage. I’m not struggling. This person over here has already lost one child and just found out the child she’s carrying may not survive. I’m not struggling. This person over here lost his job with a large family to support. I’m not struggling. Reading my own thought process in black and white makes me kind of ill. Why do we think that other pain is more important just because it’s different than our own? Oh, my dear ones, why can’t we just admit that we’re struggling?

I don’t think I have the right to be struggling. There, I said it. I incessantly compare myself to others even though I’ve read so many godly writings warning me against this. I have a suspicion that some of you can relate to this realm of thinking. I still can’t seem to convince my brain that comparison is a thief. It’s a thief of joy, contentment, rest, even friendship. I don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to feel down. I don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to share my problems when there are others who have worse problems. I also don’t think I should be ‘allowed’ to burden others who already carry burdens.

This way of thinking is an utter nightmare. Constantly comparing my burden to the burden of others in order to judge whether or not I have the ‘right’ to feel the way that I feel is nonsense, and I know it. The Bible gives us specific permission, no, INSTRUCTION, to share our problems with that pesky “carry each other’s burdens” verse (Galatians 6:2). It doesn’t say “carry everyone’s burden IN ADDITION to your own” or, “carry everyone’s burden INSTEAD of your own.” But isn’t that what so many of us do?

"But, 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.' For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." - 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

You may be thinking like me. Boasting? What I’m doing is far from boasting. I mean, verse after verse in the Bible tells us to care for others more than ourselves. But while I think I may be doing just the opposite of boasting, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Get this – I’m actually boasting about being humble. I’m not doing it out loud so it doesn’t look like boasting, but I’m still weighing myself against everyone else and I’m winning the ‘least problems award’ every time. But look what the verse above says. These things are not for me to judge. Only God can judge the heart and I’m willing to bet that he sees all pain equally. That’s just how much he loves us.

The Sin of Over-Analysis

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I should have said this. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything at all. Is she upset with me? What did his response mean? I’ve said the wrong thing again. She must be disappointed in me. He’ll never tell me anything again. I’ll never tell her anything again. My heart will be safer if I just stay quiet.” I, I, I, Me, I, Me, Me, I, My.

I absolutely hate admitting that my brain functions like this. I’m so obsessed with what other people think of me. I want to scream into a mirror – GET OVER YOURSELF! What about what God thinks of me? Have I forgotten to whom my life belongs?

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." - Psalm 139:13
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" - 1 Samuel 16:7
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:22-24

The Sin of Can’t

Yep, I just went there. Even when I do have my mind on other people’s needs I’m thinking, “I can’t help them because I don’t have the money. I can’t help them because I’m sick.” And I’ve even been afraid to speak my heart. Afraid of writing, afraid of speaking, afraid of encouraging others because I’m afraid that I won’t speak God’s words or I’m afraid of what others will think about me. I think to myself, “if I say this, everyone is going to be watching me to see what happens next so I better not say it at all.” But goodness, I AM NOT THAT IMPORTANT.

This is all fear. Fear that I don’t have it all together. Fear that I am not enough. Fear that I don’t have the resources. Fear that other people may see my weaknesses. Well, guess what. I don’t have it all together. I am not enough. I don’t have the resources. I do have weaknesses. But there’s really good news. God has it all together. God is enough. He has the resources. And He is strong in our weaknesses.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'" - 2 Corinthians 12:9

One Common Thread

What do all of these sins have in common? Self. The real IDOL… yes, I said IDOL… is me. How on earth did this happen? You’re telling me that the person who is constantly thinking about others is really worshiping herself? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. Think about it. Comparing yourself to others, believing you have nothing to give to others, over-analyzing how others interact with you- It’s really all about you!

Perhaps God revealed all of this to me so that I could, once again, show my cards to all of you. Maybe I’m supposed to overcome the fear of speaking my heart. Maybe there are others who haven’t recognized the hidden sin in their lives. It’s absolutely stunning to think that Satan can take humility and turn it into a sin. Deception at its evilest. When I tried to figure out why I’m struggling and why I feel so depressed, God put a thought into my mind that if I were Satan what would I do? I would start confusing and putting fearful thoughts into the mind of somebody who thinks one of the only things she is offering the world is her words. I would make her feel the need to compare herself with others. I would make her think that her words are hurting people, or her words don’t matter, or her words will just be misunderstood. I would make her think that she can’t. I WOULD SILENCE HER WORDS.

If I were the enemy, I would steal, kill and destroy. I would steal the meaning that you thought your life had. I would kill your joy. I would confuse and destroy your relationships. I would steal your heart with constant fear and doubt.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." - John 10:10

Jesus came to give us a full life. Letting Satan steal, kill, and destroy is anything but a full life. It’s a full mind but it’s not a full life. Jesus did not die so that we could constantly compare ourselves to others. He died for all of us equally. Jesus did not die so that we could over-analyze our interactions. He died because he loves us. There’s no ulterior motive, no angle, just LOVE. Jesus did not die so that we could discourage ourselves with “I can’t”. What if Jesus had said, “I can’t?” The truth is, we can, because Jesus lived, loved, and died for us. He is our strength when we are weak. He gives us permission to feel the way that we feel and he feels it with us!

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." - Hebrews 4:16

Look at that. Approach with confidence, not fear. Receive mercy that none of us deserve. Find grace to cover the sin of self, and grace to help us in our need. If we don’t admit that we are needy, we don’t allow Jesus to meet our need. If we don’t admit that we are struggling, we don’t allow Jesus to carry us through.

So when you put it that way…. I’M STRUGGLING!!! JESUS, CARRY ME. And the really, REALLY good news – His arms are strong enough to carry us all.

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Prayers Offered in Faith Will Make the Sick Person Well

"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." - James 5:16

I’m struggling to find the right words for this. There just aren’t words beautiful enough to describe what happened today, but I pray that God gives them to me.

The last journal entry I wrote was on January 19 and I told God that I felt lost. I told him I was having trouble believing that I will ever be healthy again in this life and I didn’t know if it was ok for me to feel that way, or if I should keep hoping for health. I didn’t know if I was supposed to just accept what is, like a thorn in my side, and live my life as best I can, or if I should keep believing that God will heal me physically. Of course I have hope. Hope for eternity. But I ran fresh out of hope for health in this life. Honestly, I’m exhausted. I’m so tired of the fight. I’m tired of hoping for every appointment and every treatment, and getting my hopes crushed. I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. I told God the thought of continuing this exhausting fight for something that isn’t going to happen is unbearable and I prayed that he would give my feelings direction.

I think I’ve said here before that God speaks most clearly to me when he gives me songs. They are not my songs at all, but His. I would never be able to write them on my own. A new song is one of the ways I know that God is present with me. But I very briefly mentioned in a post on Monday that I hadn’t received a new song in awhile. Being the beautiful person that she is, my friend immediately sent me a card that said God is filling my heart with music and will bring me to song again soon, along with this verse:

"Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted." - Isaiah 49:13

What a beautiful, beautiful verse. Perfect for me, really! Here’s where it starts to get very obvious that God is working. Before I ever received the card, God heard my friend’s prayers for me and gave me a song called I Wait for You. A perfect song while I waited for God to answer my prayers about my hope. A song asking God to show me His glory. I thought the song was an answer to my prayers. Little did I know that God was only getting started.

My Rheumatologist had set up a Dermatology appointment for the next day (yesterday). I was supposed to get a biopsy to confirm the next illness they think I have – Lupus. However, I received a steroid shot at my last Rheumatology appointment and when I showed up at my Dermatology appointment, they said a biopsy so soon after a steroid shot would skew the results. Let me tell you, I was fighting mad! It was such a waste of time and money, just to have to go back and spend the same amount of time and money in three weeks, and my Rheumatologist should have known that! I was so angry! My lack of a job does not leave us room for errors like this! I was ranting about it to my friend, who then prayed as only a person of bold prayer would. She prayed that I would receive peace, but also that I would find a monetary treasure somewhere, somehow. Well, I did find a penny yesterday, which was a beautiful sign pointing me to what God was about to do, though I didn’t know it at the time.

Today, I received the card that my friend had sent me and was floored that God filled me with song even when I didn’t know she had prayed about it for me. She then came over to my house to tell me even more news. Her car recently broke down for good and she was cleaning it out to take it to the junkyard. She reminded me that she had prayed for my treasure, and then told me that she found my treasure in her car. She said I have to accept it because it’s an answer to prayer. What could I possibly say? I’m still so very overwhelmed by this whole story.

The nearness of God has been so real to me lately. He knew exactly when I needed hope. He knew exactly when I needed a song. He knew exactly when my friend’s car would break down. He knew when she put that money in there long ago and forgot about it, that it was meant to bless me. He knew she would immediately recognize the answer to her prayer and she would let him use her. He used her precious heart to bless mine with far more than money. He has shown me that he does care about the physical things. If he cares about money, he cares about my health. He does want me to hope for more than just eternity. He does listen to and answer our prayers. And he did show me his glory!

As soon as I started writing this, God brought to mind the verse that I put at the top of this post. And now that I look at it again, the previous verses just complete this story and confirm that God has had his hands ALL over us.

"And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." - James 5:15-16

My prayers offered in faith gave me the most incredible friendship when I needed it the most. I could really write a book about how I know that God gave her to me. The prayer offered in faith gave me a new song. The prayer offered in faith gave me a treasure. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. We pray for each other, so that we may be healed.

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" - John 9:1-3
"'Lord, the one you love is sick.' When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.'" - John 11:3-4

Loneliness, a period without song, a broken down car, wasted money, illnesses. These all seem like bad things. But just look! Look what God has done and tell me! Tell me that you don’t see his Light shining in the darkness! Tell me that you don’t see His glory! There is beauty in the wait.

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.

Amen.

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