Not Guilty

I didn’t really want to write today, as I’ve been drawn to isolation the last couple days. But I know how badly it hurts to be silent. Literally. It’s usually the only time I have joint pain. But how do you go about telling anyone that you’re back down again… back where you never wanted to be… back where you feel like you’re drowning?

The little things are going wrong today, and I’m ashamed that they’re getting to me. We can’t make ends meet as it is and our HOA fees went up, my student loan payment almost tripled, I’m running out of medicine, yesterday I accidentally hung up on Jason while he was phoning me in to church so I missed most of it, for three nights in a row I have to muster up enough saliva to soak a massive chunk of cotton to test my cortisol, I can’t take the supplement that lowers my cortisol so I’m more anxious than usual, I had several episodes of sleep paralysis this morning, and just now as I put the recliner up, my wrist tendon actually got stuck so that I had to move it back into place with my other hand. OW.

These are mostly just little things, but they feel like big things because I was already down before any of them happened. After a pretty good week emotionally, I surprised myself by crumpling to the fetal position Saturday night. I had battled what felt like blood sugar drops all day. No matter how much I ate, I still felt like passing out. Dysautonomia is a cruel syndrome. There is a dysfunction in the Autonomic Nervous System, meaning that at any point, any of the functions my body is supposed to know how to do automatically (regulate blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, blood sugar, digestion, etc) could just stop working. I cannot tell you how fear-inducing that is. And my automatic response is to blame myself, to obsess over figuring out what I did wrong so that I can do it right next time. Maybe I ate too much starch, or drank too much coffee, or got out of the bed on the wrong side. I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that I’m doing absolutely everything right and I’m still debilitatingly sick. Part of this tendency to blame is my predisposition but I also had a doctor who constantly said “disease can’t live in a body without sugar”. Now I say to him, “bull CRAP”… but I still often see his face accompanying my health-guilt. I haven’t had a single bit of sugar, even natural sugar, in 2-3 months (I lost count) so there is no way my blood sugar should have been dropping. It’s ridiculous. And I can’t talk to any of my doctors about it because they don’t seem to understand dysautonomia. It’s terrifying not to be able to have anyone to turn to for help. I feel so very alone. I’m scared, and I’m angry, and I’m sad, and I’m guilty, and I want to let out a guttural SCREAM UNTIL SOMEONE FIXES ME!!!!!

Yesterday I was reading Fully Alive, by Susie Larson (just get used to me talking about this book because I’m not going to stop for awhile), and I read this out loud to Jason, “I’ve worked so hard to take care of myself. I take my vitamins, go to bed early, drink lots of water, exercise, and build margin into my schedule. I’m doing everything I know to do to stay healthy… I feel like I can’t win, no matter how hard I try.” Jason, who sadly has to witness many of my countless meltdowns said, “you literally just said that.”  Yes, yes I did. I’m listening, God.

And I continued to read, “you’re still afraid to let people down. You’re mad at yourself because you don’t want to disappoint.” Ugh, yeah. People are now invested in me. How am I supposed to face them if I don’t get better? It’s just best if I do this by myself. But deep down I know that’s not true. I ache with need. And I’m so ashamed every time I slide back down. I know that my depression disappoints and hurts people. And I hate myself for it. But that’s probably what Satan wants.

And then the shot between the eyes, “at some point you have to accept your limits and not berate yourself for the ways you need God in this season.” I find it so difficult to even let that sink in. Not berating myself? That’s just a foreign language to me. I pretty much need God to accomplish absolutely everything for me in this season. I’m not strong enough. And I’m ashamed. Why am I so ashamed to need God? This should be a season of blessing for me, of deep intimacy with God. And I’m wasting it with my guilt.

“Jesus broke through in a whisper with words that would forever change the way I walked with Him. He whispered to my soul, ‘Susie, I get that you love Me. But you don’t seem to understand that I love you. So from now on, until I tell you differently, every time you want to tell Me that you love Me, I want you to turn it around and say, ‘You love me, Lord.'” Susie says, “We don’t overcome insecurity by trying hard not to be insecure. We overcome insecurity when we’re undone by God’s unfathomable love.” I think the reason last week was so good in spite of my health was because I constantly invited God to love me. That was my focus. But somewhere over the last few days, my focus has shifted back to what people think of me… or as Jason so wisely pointed out, what I think of me. God, help me die to this!

“Where once I cared too much about what others thought of me, I eventually died to their opinions of me, and you know how God filled those vacancies in my soul? He imparted to me a deep, profound, compassionate love for others.” I want this so badly, and have been praying for it for many months now. I’m beyond tired of conditional, guilt-ridden ‘love’. I long for real love. And it has to start with dying to what I and other people think, and awakening to a deep understanding of Jesus’ love for me. He has already assigned a “not guilty” verdict to me forever. So, as I fret and obsess and try to fix, I pray God reminds me every single moment that the only thing that matters is that He loves me. “I do believe, help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Song I’m feeling: Who You Say I Am, by Hillsong

“Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh, His love for me
Oh, His love for me

Who the Son sets free, Oh, is free indeed
I’m a child of God, Yes I am
Free at last, He has ransomed me
His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin, Jesus died for me”
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The Strength of My Heart

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalm 73:26

My in-laws invited us to lunch today and, even though I haven’t seen them in months, I just can’t do it. It’s not a food problem anymore because I simply wouldn’t eat, which is a non-issue for me now. But my sound and motion sensitivity wouldn’t be able to handle the commotion of the restaurant and I wouldn’t be able to sit unreclined for that long without becoming lightheaded. At times like these, I find myself heading down the road of “my so-called life”, as in, I don’t very often believe that I actually have one. I have an existence. There’s a lot of evidence to back me up on this, depending on your perspective. I can’t accompany my husband anywhere – church, grocery shopping, restaurants, etc. Talk about feeling like a failure. I can’t remember the last occasion I spent time socially with anyone besides Jason and my parents. I’m serious. I sat here for a long time trying to recall. I also can’t tell you the last time I’ve been to the other side of the parking lot because it’s too far away for the fainting potential. And the day you see me with a new haircut will be the day you know I had enough strength to sit upright long enough to let them do it. Until then, long live the ponytail. Sitting with these thoughts deeply depresses me. So I felt the need to share that these thoughts are not what have governed the last week of my life, and I’m fighting hard not to let them govern the week ahead.

Honestly, I had a pretty rough week health-wise. I felt awful most of the time and had quite a bit of toxin build-up. It would be easy for me to look back on this week and see only the failure of my flesh and heart. But I talk so much about the negative things that I needed to tell you that what I actually see when I look back on this week was one of the best weeks I’ve had in a very long time. My flesh and MY heart failed… but God was the strength of my heart and my portion. I wish that I could tell you about each precious moment from this week that I will hold dear in my heart forever, but I feel that they are too sacred to talk about. They belong to me and to God, and to the few people who shared in some of those moments. For a short but very blessed time, I felt happy. I can’t tell you the last time I was able to feel that emotion. I was physically miserable, but I was happy… and not for myself, but for someone else. How can this be?

I have been praying for a long time that God would awaken a pure love in me, and I believe He is answering that prayer. And this week I have opened a door to Jesus more fully than I have in a long time. I have constantly invited Him to love me, something that does not come the slightest bit easy for me. I have felt His presence as I’ve poured out my heart in complete honesty to Him. It was over four years ago that I wrote a song about my panic attacks, asking God to open me up, to break my seal in order to bring healing. But I think it has taken me this long to actually be almost ready for it. Maybe that’s why the panic has been unbelievable this week. God carried me through, and will continue to do so. Instead of tightening the lid on my heart, I’m untwisting it little by little, very slowly releasing some of the pressure and pain out into the world and into Jesus’ arms. I feel exposed, but exposure is necessary for healing. The overflow is happening, and I pray I don’t push it back down. I find it so beautiful that I’ve been asking Jesus to breathe for me this week, and then I was reminded of this song today, a song asking God to breathe new life into me. God is certainly replenishing me with Himself. How beautiful.

Even though the details are too holy to share with the whole world, I wanted you to share in my joy as I look back on a week with gratitude. My flesh continues to fail and my heart still hurts, but when I let God be the strength of my heart and my breath, I am overwhelmed with His goodness, and I can’t help but smile even in the pain. He is healing me.

Song I’m feeling: Replenish, gifted to me by God so many years ago, knowing how much He would bless me with it again today. What a beautiful Creator.

Lord, what is happening to me?
Sometimes I feel I can’t even breathe
Shaken to the core ’til I can shake no more
I close the lid on my heart

Won’t You come and break my seal?
Expose me so that I can heal
Anoint the altar of my shattered dreams
And replenish my supply with You

The question’s always, “how are you?”
Why can’t I tell them the truth?
A simple, “I’m just fine”, though I’m dying inside
Tightening the lid on my heart

Won’t You come and break my seal?
Expose me so that I can feel
Anoint the altar of my shattered dreams
And replenish my supply with You

Afraid to overflow, I keep pushing it down
My breath is running out as I start to drown
God, please pour me on the altar of my shattered dreams
Accept these broken pieces as my offering
Please breathe new life into me
And hold me in Your arms ’til I can shake no more
And replenish my supply with You

I am healed by only You

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‘Til Hope is Finally Louder than the Ache

I’ve been wanting to tell you about a song I heard for the first time several months ago and since today is ROUGH, it seems like a good time to share someone else’s words, as I cling to them with all my might. I feel just plain awful. It’s a bit difficult to explain but there is a difference between physical and emotional anxiety. The first sign of physical anxiety for me is pain in my mid-left back. I actually call it my “anxiety spot” because it never fails. Once the pain starts, in a matter of hours or a day, I am vibrating from the inside out. That’s the only way I can describe it. I’m trembling, my head is spinning, and I can’t relax even if I tried. My body just won’t do it. Over the years (ugh, YEARS), I’ve concluded that toxins must get hung up in that spot. Since I have exercise intolerance, I can’t do much to stimulate my lymph flow to clear out toxins well. So, I try to do some exercises and walk as much as my POTS will allow and I have Jason gently massage that spot in my back. If he does it not-so-gently, the panic nearly sends me through the roof. Nothing really works so I usually just have to ride it out. It feels like I won’t make it through! I cling and pray while my world kind of swirls around me.

A few months ago I stumbled upon a song by Alisa Turner, called Miracle or Not. I hope you will click that hyperlink to listen to it but I’m just going to type out all the words to make sure you read the beauty:

“How long will I have to hear the stories of how You were able?
How long will I have to celebrate a miracle that’s not my own?
How long will I lift my voice and sing again that You are always good
When I’m feeling all this distance I thought I never would?
How long?

As long as it takes for my heart to find its song
As long as it takes to know I’m still not alone
And at the end of the day, I’ll stand right here and say
I know that You love me, miracle or not

How long will I give myself before I give up waiting?
How long will I have to hide behind a smile that says that I’m ok?
How long will I hold onto the promises I thought I heard You speak
When every passing day just leaves me broken down and weak?

As long as it takes for my heart to find its song
As long as it takes to know I’m still not alone
And at the end of the day, I’ll stand right here and say
I know that You love me, miracle or not

I will sing it ’til my broken heart believes it
I’ll declare it ’til I smell the smoke of faith
And with my hands held high, I’ll scream it in the darkness
‘Til hope is finally louder than the ache.”

This song touches a place deeper in my heart than any song I’ve ever known. I had never even heard of the artist but I instantly knew she had Lyme disease. It’s amazing to me how your spirit sometimes just knows who its kindreds are. A quick search confirmed that she not only has Lyme, but a story that shattered my heart. I expected to be encouraged by listening to her story but I was surprised to feel anger. I found myself asking God how he could allow this woman not only to have a debilitating battle with Lyme, but take away her father, and allow her to get pregnant even though she was told she couldn’t conceive, only to lose the child soon after it was born. For awhile, I could not handle this story. But I kept looking at Alisa’s face and listening to her speak so passionately about Jesus and I thought there must be something I was missing.

And then I looked at the song lyrics. She sings everything I’ve said in the hidden places in my heart. How long, Lord? You’re able and good, so why do I feel so bad? Will I ever get my miracle? I only get weaker. I want to give up. I HAVE given up. She talks about feeling just exactly the way I feel in the videos I’ll share at the end.

I have been getting so upset with myself for giving up, for falling back down after a couple steps back up. But I’ve been trying to change my perspective to: yes, I fall down, but I always get back up. God helps me back up. He helps me say again, “As long as it takes, Lord. I know that You love me even if I don’t get my miracle.” And sometimes I really do scream it in the darkness, in the middle of the night on my knees desperately trying to believe. And I hold onto my favorite line, “’til hope is finally louder than the ache”. My aches scream at me daily and I look forward to the day when my hope screams louder. This song speaks and melts my heart.

Alisa says that in the seasons where the Lord seems quiet, we have to cling to what we already know about Him, that He loves us and never leaves us.  She talks about changing her prayer from “Lord, please open these doors” to “Lord, whatever door you open, I’ll walk.” That strikes me so powerfully because, yes, we pray for our miracle, but we also pray, “Your will be done”. And we know in our heart of hearts that wherever God wants us to walk is the most beautiful path possible. Because we know that He loves us, miracle or not.

Here is a link to Alisa’s story. Tissue warning:
Alisa Turner’s Story 

And here is a link to the song story, which is just beautiful. She talks about how she was so weak that day that she couldn’t write or sing and she had to let her friends carry her by writing this song. So many days, I have to lean on the faith and hope of my dear ones!! My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude for those who hold me up when I’m not strong enough.
Miracle or Not Story

I hope this song encourages you. Much love!

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Fighting the Blaze of Fear

I’ve been overwhelmed with fear and panic this week. Nothing seems to calm me. I’ve taken 1/4 of an anxiety pill on three different days. If you know me and drugs, you know things have to be pretty bad for me to give in and put synthetic junk in my body. I usually only take a pill every few months or so.

I had an endocrinology appointment today and I had hoped to be released from their care so I can start taking the med my Cardiologist wants to try for POTS. This whole thing was supposed to be just a quick check-in with Endocrinology to find out why my cortisol was so high, but it’s turned into a six(ish)-month ordeal. Meanwhile, I’m just hanging out with insane POTS symptoms and not able to try anything that might help. So, I feared the appointment. I feared going without Jason. I feared messing with someone else’s schedule to give me a ride. I feared passing out on the way to the office, or waiting in the check-in line, or in front of everyone in the waiting room, or all by myself in the exam room. Basically, I have an irrational/rational fear of passing out anywhere now. I fear passing out alone because losing consciousness without someone with you is just scary. I fear passing out in front of anyone because of the embarrassment factor. I am afraid to be alone… and afraid to be with anyone. So. Much. Fear. And for whatever reason, it has reared its ugly head exponentially this week. I almost want my cortisol to still be high because that would explain why I feel so crazy-afraid.

Like I said before, I have the privilege of reading Susie Larson’s new book, Fully Alive, before it has even come out, and what a gift to my soul! This is one incredible, healing book and I’m only on Chapter 4. And, wouldn’t you know it, Chapter 3 was all about fear.

She says, “Without realizing it, I had put more weight on my ability to fall down than on God’s ability to hold me up.” This hits me in a literal sense. I have far too much faith in my ability to fall/pass out. But here’s my argument to her: I believe God has the ability to hold me up, but I don’t believe He necessarily WILL. So, what if I do pass out?

And she argues back to me, “Jesus knows the layers of your pain, hurts, and traumas. And He knows exactly how to unearth them without destroying you.” So, what if I pass out? It will not destroy me. I will survive. Even if I die I will not be destroyed, but given a new body. So, why the amped-up fear lately?

“He only allowed me to be stirred up because He had determined that it was time for me to be free.” Oh, Hallelujah, Amen! Let it be so!

“The closer we get to exposing and identifying our fears, the more it threatens the enemy’s claimed territory in our lives. How does he respond? He turns up the heat on our fears; he threatens exposure and terror because he’s the one who’s terrified at the thought of being exposed. His only power in our lives is the lie. So when the lie goes, so goes his access to us. Hang in there. You will win this battle.” This gives me so much encouragement. My fear of exposure has become absolutely debilitating. The thought of someone seeing me pass out, lose that kind of control, is nearly paralyzing. Someone might see my weakness, might see ME. I’ve been hiding from people for as long as I can remember, but God is slowly working on me to walk in the freedom He gave me. I believe that the fear I feel is the enemy’s fear. He knows that my freedom is coming soon and he is stoking the fear-fire to blazing. I am actually very comforted by this… if I could just hold on. Please, God, help me hold on!

“When you’re tempted to fear, turn your back on your fears and turn your eyes upon Jesus.” This morning, lying awake in the early hours, I tried desperately to picture the eyes of Jesus, full of compassion for me. I tried to let Him breathe for me, steady me. But the fear still raged. It’s discouraging… but I have to keep trying. The enemy wants me to quit fighting… and I have quit more times than I’d like to admit. But just like Elijah in 1 Kings 19, God keeps re-awakening the fight in me, lifting my head and giving me just enough strength to keep going. I don’t want to stop fighting just before I am free.

“What about your life threatens the enemy? Why is he worried about you being free? What might happen? Dream a little.” Oh my goodness, my heart leaps at this! I have sensed for a short time now that my freedom is coming soon. God is doing something bigger than I can imagine. The enemy knows it and is attacking my dreams and amping my fears. Why is he worried about my freedom? What is God going to do through me? I don’t know, but if the blaze of freedom matches the blaze of fear, I better dream BIG! I’m brought to my knees just thinking about it.

And by the way, before I close, Endocrinology did not release me like I hoped. They want yet another test. This time, saliva. My last saliva test was inconclusive because the sample wasn’t adequate. I have Sjogren’s mouth drier than a desert. What makes them think I can shove cotton in my mouth and produce anything? God, grant me the spit to make this happen so I can finally be done with this!! What a funny prayer to pray. Sometimes you just gotta laugh at life.

And, side note, two people have told me I’ve lost weight this week, one of them being my doctor so I guess I have to believe them, but really? Let me tell you what I’ve eaten today, and I am not making this up. I had my usual breakfast at 7:30ish: two small patties of homemade pork sausage, a handful of spinach, celery and almond butter. And I’m not even kidding you, at 9:30 I had a hamburger and green beans. And when I got home at 12:30 I had leftover hot chicken meatballs, baked potato “fries” and more green beans. I’ve had three meals today and it’s only 2:30! And I’m hungry again. How is this possible? I’m just over here living my ironic life. Laugh with me so I don’t cry. That’s it for me today, friends. Hello from my pooch and me.

Song I’m feeling: Fear is a Liar, by Zach Williams. The video gets me all weepy.
“Fear, he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear, he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
‘Cause fear, he is a liar”

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The Shadow Can’t Have Me

Spiritual warfare is real and I think it’s time I talk about it. I’ve always known this but I think I only wanted to believe it happened in places like Haiti, where I went on mission trips and saw witch doctors. I’ve been afraid of the spiritual realm ever since my church scared the daylights out of me by letting a visiting preacher play a tape of demons. After that I decided the only way I would be able to sleep with the lights off would be if I just ignored their existence.

But lately I haven’t been able to ignore the spiritual warfare at work around me. Occasionally throughout my life I’ve had episodes of sleep paralysis. I only remember it happening a handful of times but when it happens, I know I’m awake and where I am and I’m trying desperately to open my eyes or speak to pull myself out of the nightmare, but I can’t do it for an agonizing minute. It’s amazing how terrifying one minute can be.

And while I don’t remember the circumstances surrounding the other couple of times it happened to me, it’s happened multiple times over the past couple weeks. I have realized that I am no longer able to ignore the pure evil I feel when it happens. I’m not saying all episodes of sleep paralysis are visits from evil spirits. There’s no way I can possibly know that. But I do believe that mine have been the result of evil oppressing me. I’ll tell you why.

When it happened last Sunday, I was sleeping on my stomach (I know it’s bad for your back but that’s always been the only way I can get comfortable). I woke during a nightmare. I knew I was awake and I knew where I was and that Jason was sleeping right beside me. I knew all of this but I was still unable to move or speak and felt as if something was holding me down into the bed. I tried over and over to say something along the lines of, “Leave me in the name of Jesus.” Somehow I knew that the name of Jesus would free me, but nothing would come out for a short but terrifying period of time until I finally woke up gasping “in the name of Jesus”. The second time it happened several days later was even more terrifying. That time I actually saw a dark shadow holding me down into the bed. I kept trying to scream the name “Jesus” so much so that my throat felt a little raw and I finally woke up yelling it, scaring Jason awake.

Since this happened, Jason and I have been much more diligent about taking up a warfare posture of prayer. We are fighting for my sleep and the peace in our home. We pray for protection before we go to sleep. We pray that the Holy Spirit fills every corner of our home so that nothing else can reside here. We pray that in the name of Jesus any evil that is here will leave and never come back. One of our ministers came over and prayed for us and our house.

I’m not going to say I’ve slept like a baby ever since. Far from it. Even though I know I have the strength of Jesus to run the evil away, it’s hard not to be afraid of something so dark. Just this morning I was on the verge of another episode when I woke up in a panic. But here’s what happened a couple nights ago. I had a nightmare but nothing was on top of me this time. Instead in my dream, our window was open a crack and when I lifted up the blinds to close it, the dark figure hurled itself up against the window as if it wanted to come in but couldn’t. I believe God is protecting us and I pray that one day the window will be completely closed, sealed, and locked.

You may think I’m crazy but I’m actually grateful that such scary things have happened to me. I’m grateful because it has confirmed to me that I really do know Whose I am. When I’m this depressed, it’s common for me to wonder if I am truly a child of God. I have been so encouraged that even in a dreamlike state, “Jesus” is the name I want so desperately to call out. I know I belong to Jesus and He can save me from this terrible evil. My heart overflows with gratitude for this, which I’m sure makes the enemy madder than a hornet. My heart just bursts to have confirmation that it belongs to Jesus and nothing can take it away. This has only spurred me on to fight harder and cling to my Savior with every bit of strength He gives me. I speak and sing His name over and over throughout my days, and even my nights when I wake afraid.

I woke up sad this morning for no apparent reason. And then fear was added when Jason got dizzy and fell getting out of the shower. He did not seriously hurt himself but I feel like over the past few months even up to a year, as he’s had sickness after sickness, I have been slowly watching my worst fear realized. I wonder if I am watching Jason become just as sick as I am. And I’m tempted to say that if it does happen the way I fear, we won’t survive it. It’s not possible. But I know that is a lie from the evil one. We will be ok because we belong to Jesus. I say this still gripped with fear, but I know it to be true and will repeat it until peace is mine. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. There’s just something about that name. We walk through the darkest valley, but our Savior’s rod and staff are with us (Psalm 23).

There is no ignoring evil. We have to fight. I absolutely feel that I am walking through the valley of the shadow… but am overwhelmed with gratitude that the shadow can never have me. Thank You, Jesus, for making me Yours.

Song I’m feeling: The Shadow Can’t Have Me, by Arthur Alligood
“I walk through the valley of the shadow
I walk through the valley of the shadow
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
But the shadow can’t have me.”

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There’s Just Something About That Name

If you are reading this, I’d love your prayers. I’m extremely dizzy and faint. Part of the reason why I’m writing is to try and keep my mind conscious. But I wanted to stop bumming you out and end the week by recounting the good moments that shone a light into the darkness.

On Monday, one of our ministers came over to pray and sing with us. After all of my terrible dreams, it was a God-send to have someone pray over us, our house, and our sleep. I truly appreciate everyone’s prayers.

I received an email on the evening of my worst day that I had been selected to be on the launch team for Susie Larson’s new book, Fully Alive. I have followed Susie on Facebook ever since I found out she has battled Lyme disease. But what’s even more amazing is that this book seems to be just what I need right now. How perfect is this? Check out the description:
“In this eye-opening book, Susie Larson shows how intertwined our emotional, spiritual, and physical health are. Spiritual difficulties can have physical consequences, and physical illnesses can have emotional and even spiritual ramifications. So in order for true healing to occur, it must happen holistically–mind, body, and spirit.
Providing a fresh vision of what a flourishing life is, Susie shares practical, biblical ways to
· replace defeating thoughts with redemptive ones
· overcome stress and embrace God’s peace
· deal with the ‘I can’ts’ embedded in our souls
· trade unhealthy habits for new life-giving practices
We cannot keep ignoring the mental and/or emotional symptoms that are trying to get our attention. Fully Alive is an uplifting guide for anyone who longs to know the health, freedom, and wholeness that Jesus wants for us.” I pray that I can take this book to heart.

Something I still can’t wrap my head around is that there are people who, no matter how hard I try to make them give up on me, just will not do it. Maybe some day I’ll be able to operate in unconditional love like them. I can only pray that God grows me in love and grace.

Last but certainly not least, we have been speaking the name of Jesus in this house right and left, morning and night. Jason has been fighting hard for me, and that is what I need. When I absolutely do not have the strength to fight for myself, I am so grateful for the people who don’t stop fighting for me. We have been praying for the Holy Spirit to fill our house, to protect us while we sleep. And when we wake up in the night, we pray. And in the morning before Jason goes to work, we pray. Last night Jason prayed over my mind, heart, and body. I used to feel peace when someone was praying but for awhile now I have just felt numb. But last night as Jason was praying for God to calm the storm in my mind, to remove the confusion in Jesus’ name, to reign over my thoughts, I actually believed He could do it. Of course, prior to this, I KNEW He could do it, but there’s a difference between knowing and believing. It’s hard to get a broken, cloudy brain to pray, let alone believe. I was no longer numb and going through the motions of prayer. I believed God was hearing us and I believed that He was there. Prayer has been so important to me this week and I am grateful to the people offering theirs to me.

Please keep fighting for me. I need you more than you realize. At this moment, my symptoms have me pretty panicked so, when you read this, please speak the name of Jesus over me. I know… and I believe… that He can calm the storm in me.

Song I’m feeling:
“Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
There’s just something about that Name
Master, Savior, Jesus
Like the fragrance after the rain
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Let all heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there’s something about that Name.”

 

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Purple Elephant Pants

I once heard Jen Hatmaker tell a story about the friendship of female elephants. She said that when they are vulnerable in some way, such as giving birth or being attacked, the rest of the females in the herd will stand in a circle to protect the vulnerable one. Jen compared this story to female human friendships… and I cried.

I’ve had friends over the years, don’t get me wrong. But a whole tribe I can count on to be there for me when I am most vulnerable? That seems impossible for me. If you’ll forgive my metaphors, I’ll continue.

The sisterhood seemed to start off well. I tried to make the purple pants fit out of convenience and it worked for awhile. But eventually, they just didn’t fit anymore. And I couldn’t figure out what I had done to make her give them back. And so began the stretch, wear, and tear.

I learned I had to do everything in my power to make the next person stay with the sisterhood. My fear of another unknown wrongdoing made me cling..no… suffocate. But being forced into something only stretches it out. She started spending time with other people and finally forgot about me. The pants came back with some holes after that, but I did my best to patch them up.

I learned to compare myself, and to try to shield her from my intensity. I could not be honest because honesty was too much. But you can’t have a friendship without honesty, so the pants came back to me… quite a bit more worn.

Then I wondered if I poured out my entire self to make her see my worth, if someone would finally keep the pants. Unfortunately, I expected the same amount of pouring back… and it was me who started taking back the pants that time, only loaning them out for short jaunts. And I continued this habit for years.

I learned I had to push people away first because they would eventually break my heart. I couldn’t give my heart completely because the pants would come back to me destroyed. The only problem with this plan was, when you love so easily, you can’t keep your heart to yourself no matter how hard you try.

So I’ve been in this constant tug-of-war with the pants for a very long time. They fit some people and they don’t fit others. Some people like them and some think they are too much. Some people get tired of them and some people want to wear them more than I’ll allow. And each back-and-forth adds another tear that threatens to destroy the whole pair.

But if I’m really being honest, no one has ever been able to keep the sisterhood going for very long. Because what has always worn the pants in these relationships is Shame. Shame that brought along its best friends- Fear and Self-doubt. I lost all confidence and tried to make it on my own, accompanied by the Shame-tribe, of course. At least I had a tribe.

But shame is destroying what’s left of a perfectly good, fun, comfortable, lovable pair of pants. And I don’t know what to do about it except to offer them to Jesus. Maybe he likes purple elephant pants. Maybe if I try to lay them at the foot of the cross, they’ll be stitched back together by the Man who scorned shame (Hebrews 12:2). I don’t know if it’s possible to repair the relationships that my shame-tribe and me have ruined but if anyone can make them new, He can. I’m not sure how to rid myself of the fear and self-doubt. The Lord knows I’ve tried… but only He can break those chains. I certainly don’t deserve it, but no one has ever deserved Him. Maybe one day all will be forgiven… and my heart won’t hurt every time I read about Jen Hatmaker and her tribe. Today it seems impossible… but maybe some day…

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” – Psalm 34:4-5

Song I’m feeling: More Than You’ll Ever Know, by Watermark
“Something brought you to my mind today
I thought about the funny ways you make me laugh
And yet I feel like it’s okay to cry with you
Something about just being with you
When I leave I feel like I’ve been near God
And that’s the way it ought to be

‘Cause you’ve been more than a friend to me
You fight off my enemies
You’ve spoken the truth over my life
And you’ll never know what it means to me
Just to know you’ve been on your knees for me
Oh, you have blessed my life
More than you’ll ever know”

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Psalm 88

***Disclaimer: This is very dark so feel free to skip it if you need to. It’s hard for me to describe the darkness when I’m climbing out, and the climbing out when I’m in the darkness so it helps to force myself to write during all times. Hormones make POTS and depression much worse so for about a week, I have/will be barely hanging on by my fingertips. This may not be the actual truth, but it’s what feels like the truth at this moment. My husband knows how depressed I am, and we are counseling with one of our ministers tonight. I am safe. ***

“Oh Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry.” – vs. 1-2

No one understands what it’s like to beg God for trust, all the while wondering if you’re even capable of it.

“For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care.” – vs. 3-5

No one understands what it’s like to feel on the verge of death, to have no more strength to put one foot in front of the other, but to have relief never come. No one understands what it’s like to not know how to live anymore, but to have your body keep breathing anyway.

“You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.” – vs. 6-7

No one understands what it’s like to not be able to trust yourself. To have an illness that has so clouded your mind that you have no concept of reality. Most days, all you see is darkness.

“You have taken from me my closest friends and have made me repulsive to them. ” – vs. 8

No one understands what it’s like to know that most of the people you trusted to be there for you are gone, or can’t handle you anymore, or are just waiting for you to get better… and you’re not getting better.

“I am confined and cannot escape; my eyes are dim with grief.” – vs. 9a

No one understands the guilt you feel, watching the hope in their eyes fade when you tell them that, yet again, their prayers have not been answered.

“I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you. Do you show your wonders to the dead? Do those who are dead rise up and praise you? Is your love declared in the grave, your faithfulness in Destruction? Are your wonders known in the place of darkness, or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?” – vs. 9b-12

No one understands what it’s like to be aware of how much you might need Western medicine, but to have your body reject it every time. To be afraid of medicine. To know that you are judged for not being able to handle it, even though you know your body more than anyone. No one understands what it’s like to know that the only One who can heal you is God, and He is not doing so.

“But I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you. Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me? From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me. All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.” -vs. 13-17

No one understands what it’s like to feel so utterly alone, to know that no one else in this world can do anything to help you. To know that you need to work on suffering better, but not to know if your perception is real enough to work on it well. No one understands what it’s like to be afraid of yourself.

“You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.” -vs. 18

No one understands what it’s like to desperately need to talk but to not know for sure if anyone is willing to plunge into what seems like the pits of hell that is your mind. No one understands what it’s like to feel abandoned, yet not to blame anyone for the need to spare themselves from you. You wish you could spare yourself from you.

No one understands like Jesus.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” – Matthew 26:38
“Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” – 26:40
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – 27:46

No one understands what it’s like to be afraid to write this, knowing that it may hurt, knowing that it may be perceived as attention-seeking, and knowing that your ‘truth’ will probably look so much different tomorrow, perhaps even an hour from now.

No one understands except the psalmist and Jesus. And for that, I am grateful. I cling to that. And since they were brave enough to speak it, so will I.

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He Will Restore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Barking Dog, Wounded Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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