Sunday, July 24, 2016

Misconceptions

This coming Tuesday, July 26, I will have my 3rd infusion of Rituxan. I am doing one infusion each week for the first month, and then another infusion every four weeks for 6 months. I knew the doctor wanted me to give it 6 months, but thought it was just the 4 weekly infusions and then waiting. It will most likely take 4-6 months to see any results, if there will be any to notice. In the meantime, we wait. So far, the worst side effects have been some nausea, mild body aches, and overwhelming fatigue. (Oh! and too many tears!) The biggest danger of the medication is being exposed to someone who is sick, because my immune system is compromised. I am being very diligent to ask people if they are sick, wash my hands frequently and sanitize everything.

I tend to over-analyze everything. I am definitely a "can't see the forest for the trees" kind of gal. While this trait can be a gift if you are trying to fix a problem or evaluate the effectiveness of something, when you are just trying to live life, it can be a real detriment. Thinking and re-thinking about everything can lead to worry and fear.

I have been going through some tough stuff lately, as I am sure you are aware. I am trying this medication after a long list of drugs that haven't worked and/or caused serious side effects. There is very little else for them to offer me. The doctors feel the benefits outweigh the risks, but the risks are real. Like any chemotherapy drug, getting an infection that you can't fight off, can be a serious and even life-threatening situation.....and that scares me a little. Perhaps, even more so, I fear that the treatment won't work, and I will end up never walking again.

Lately, when people ask me how I am doing, I respond by saying "I'm hanging in there" and that is true, I am hanging in there. You have all watched a movie scene where someone is hanging off a building and holding on for dear life. They are clutching the ledge or another person's hand with all their strength, but over time, they slowly start to slide. One finger, then another, and then just one arm is holding them up. Those fingers start to slip, and the camera zooms in to see the fear in their eyes as they lose their grip and start to fall. I feel that tension. I am slipping. I have just have a couple fingertips still on the ledge.

"Trust falls" have become a popular team building exercise to establish trust in a group. You may have seen them done or tried it with friends. One person stands with their back to a group of people, and then they fall backwards and trust the others will catch them. Why is this so hard to do, even with people you know? I think it is a control thing. Trusting others to catch you, knowing you are vulnerable and that you may not be able to catch yourself if they fail, is very difficult. It is a complete loss of control. For control freaks like me, it is an unsettling time, even fearful. I have gone through one trial after another, and each time I learn this lesson a little better: I am NOT in control. I never was. I never will be.

I am reminded that I am not alone on this ledge. Most days I still strive to hang on in my own strength, when all I really need to do is let go. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7) He has given us HIS Spirit. 1 John 4:18 says that "perfect love casts out fear" and that perfect love is found in Jesus Christ. That perfect love was pictured at the cross, as Jesus took the weight of all our sins upon Himself, and as the wrath of God was poured out upon Him. Jesus laid down His life for us and the "love of God has been poured out in our hearts" (Romans 5:5). Fear is replaced with His love. His light casts out the darkness. Despite our struggles and sufferings, we are able to rejoice, and to trust. We can finally let go. We know we can fall into His perfect, loving arms, and He will catch us. He will hold us up. He alone is trustworthy.

So, today I am letting go. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "Today I am letting go again, hoping I don't climb back up just to be 'hanging in there' in my feebleness." Maybe, just maybe, I have finally learned to trust and not fear. I don't know what the future holds, but I know where I will land when I do my "trust fall"........into the arms of my loving Savior, right where He wants me!

Where will you land when you fall?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Don't DIS me!

I am disabled. DIS-abled. It is probably not politically correct to call a person disabled. I think the preferred term might be "person with a disability." I have never been one to get easily offended or get caught up in semantics. I am DIS-abled. What does that mean, you ask? Well, let me try to explain my experience.

If you are a lawyer and get DIS-barred, you can no longer practice law.
If you show up to a party, and then DIS-appear, you are no longer at the party.
I was abled. Now I am DIS-abled. I can no longer do a lot of the things we used to do. If you have been following my journey, you know that I was very active and fiercely independent. I have had some health issues that caused pain and slowed me down since 1998, but it wasn't until they removed the nerve tumor in September 2009, and I lost partial use of my left leg, that I truly felt disabled.

Now you have probably all seen the Facebook posts of me climbing rock walls one-legged, or kayaking, or riding my adaptive trike, or finishing the Tough Mudder. I have pushed myself. I have tried "to adapt, improvise and overcome" as they say. What you can't see is the inner struggle. That fiercely independent woman who stills screams at me to get up and go, but quickly realizes her body hates her and isn't willing to move. You don't see the pain that comes after I push myself. Those closest to me are familiar with the constant cycle of me doing too much, and then needing days to recover.

Coming to grips with this new neurological disease, that is slowly causing me to be more disabled, is a slow and painful journey. I walk with a cane for balance now, although I should probably use a walker to be safer, and can't do long walks at all anymore. I am in almost constant pain. I don't sleep well because of the nerve pain burning down my legs, and there is the muscle cramps and twitching that contort my legs and feet into very painful positions and won't let go. This is all difficult. Harder than I imagined, and just when I think I am making progress in accepting this new reality, life smacks me in the face and reminds me how hard it all is; how much I am missing out on.

My recent struggle to push myself, or Chad would call it my stubbornness, keeps me going to the grocery store each week. I can no longer push a cart and walk around, so I have to ride in one of the motorized carts. I can only go to places now that offer the perk of a motorized carts to their customers. Without this feature, I would be unable to go shopping at all alone. Let me give you a little insight into the world of grocery shopping as I have come to see it. When I was fully able-bodied, the store was a place to go and get through as quickly as possible. There is a general pattern of traffic flow. People zip in and out and around corners, with an occasional "excuse me" as they reach for something. I know there are always a few shoppers that seem oblivious to their surroundings, either because they are on the phone, dealing with kids running around, or sometimes just because they have the ability to be in their own little world and not notice they are blocking an entire aisle, but basically the system works.

After the 2009 surgery, and the accompanying full length leg brace, shopping changed for me. I could no longer expect to get in and out of the store quickly, not because I didn't want to or wasn't physically capable of walking fairly quickly, but because people seem to want to understand me. I no longer fit their idea of a "normal" person, and I think they need to make sense of it, of me. It made for some strange and highly personal interactions with complete strangers. I couldn't get through a store without someone, and usually more than one person, asking what happened. Here is a variety of fairly common interactions:

  • "Did you have knee surgery?" Quickly followed by a "Me too" and a lengthy description of all their medical issues. I tried to be polite and listen, and actually met some older people who I am sure didn't have many other people to talk to. Occasionally, I would be able to pray with someone who was hurting.
  • "What happened to your leg?" Quickly followed by extremely personal questions about my health and medical record. "Have you seen this Dr.?" "Did you try this, that or the other -meds, diet, etc?" "Where was the tumor? Did it cause any other problems for you?" I think you get the idea. I tried to be polite and honest, but usually felt a bit like saying, "And any of this is your business why?"
  • Others simply inquired, "Where did you get that brace? I need one like that because my knee hurts. Does it help? Can I get the name of your doctor? Can I take a picture?" I usually tried to be polite, comply with their requests without telling them this brace will in NO WAY help their knee pain!
  • Last is the group that tended to yell out to me down an aisle, "Oh! I had (or someone I know had) that EXACT brace, so I know exactly what you are going through!" These were my personal "favorites" (please note the sarcasm, just because you or your Aunt Gertrude twisted their knee and wore a brace, or had knee replacement, you have NO idea what I am going through). I didn't always manage politeness in these situations, but tried to maintain composure despite being irritated and usually embarrassed as the 6 other people in the aisle heard the entire exchange and are now gawking at me.......and sometimes their children would just come stare and touch my leg.

If you are still reading, stay with me, this is where it gets good!

So, now I find myself in the situation where a motorized cart helps me be independent and shop alone. First off, let me clarify, it is NOT easy to shop from one of those. If I had a choice, I would definitely NOT use one. Have you ever been driving on a narrow road or bridge and found yourself holding your breath, or pulling in your arms as to make your car smaller? That is something I find myself doing in that cart. It is not easy to maneuver and you have to approach everything parallel to the cart and very close to you so you can reach. It makes shopping take a long time. It is a real endurance event for me between the waiting for people to leave room to fit in where I need to be, and the pain levels that build during the trip. Besides the pain in my neck and back from twisting, reaching, and looking up at everything, the hardest part is the people. Now, it seems that people no longer try to relate to me; no longer understand where I fit in their "normal" world, if I do at all. It seems people are irritated by me, or look right through me, or worse yet see me as some kind of circus freak to be avoided at all costs. Now when I shop I get one of a few basic reactions (only 1 person in all these shopping trips has stopped and asked if I needed help reaching something.):

  • The first group of shoppers tend to not see me at all. I mean, I THINK they see me. I thought we made eye contact even, but then they park their cart in front of me and block where I was headed. They let their kids keep playing in the middle of the aisle and seem to not hear my "excuse me." Others rush to get around me as I am seen only as an inconvenient slow down. Some days I think I may actually be invisible! I shop with a extra helping of patience now, and ample time.
  • The next group seem unsure what to do, so they dart away or grab their children and yank them, as if I were a monster too hideous to gaze upon. They don't know how to interact, so they avoid me. If given the chance, I'd love to interact and educate this group. 
  • The last group is the hardest, and also the one that is making me a little ruder at the store and fight for my territory in each aisle. This is the group whose judgmental glances start the second I climb into the motorized cart, or sometimes the moment  I park in a handicap spot as they try to determine if I truly belong there according to their definition of handicapped. They stare a little too long, and look a little too disgusted for me to excuse this all as me being paranoid. This group has some bold members (albeit passive aggressive) who mumble under their breathe, or speak to their toddler as they walk past making comments about people like me being slow, in the way, taking up too much space, etc. Yep, they say all that OUT LOUD so I can hear. Twice recently I have gone to a corner of the store and cried. 
It is SO much harder to shop from a chair, although I am grateful that the motorized carts are available for my use. I feel a good about still doing something by myself, I usually need rest and pain meds upon returning home. Having a disability can be very isolating, and things like the stories above, are partially why. Sometimes I want to give up; just let Chad do everything, and stay home where it is safe and comfortable, but....

Having a disability effects the whole family. As hard as this is for me, imagine how this has affected the rest of our family. Chad works 40+ hours a week, and then has to come home and do all the yard work (which I used to do), help with or do the grocery shopping for us, help with or do the house cleaning, all of which I used to do alone. You may be thinking that doesn't sound to bad, single people care for all those things by themselves, but he also has to add the job of care taker. Have you ever helped a love one who was ill, injured, or dying? It can be a heavy physical and emotional burden. I can't go and do all the things we used to do, all the things he would still love to do but doesn't want to always leave me alone. It is the sandpaper in our lives that God uses to help us die to ourselves, making us more and more Christ-like, and it hurts.

My kids are grown now, but even they have felt the sting with additional workloads, and missed opportunities over the years. My daughter, still living at home, gives me help and time in larger quantities than most her age I am sure, and at times I am sure it is more of a chore than a blessing. I know that God is sovereign in ALL things. We taught our kids from a fairly young age that whatever our family goes through, it was all filtered through the loving hands of God. My disability is OUR disability. It affects each of us differently, but with the same goal- our sanctification, our good, and God's glory.

Having just returned from JAF Family Retreat, where it is truly safe to be in pain, tired, different, or to just be yourself, without judgment, was fantastic! Some of the families there are impacted by profound disability requiring round-the-clock care. Just imagine 24/7 care, 365 days a year!! This is why the Joni and Friends ministry is so wonderful. First and foremost, it presents the gospel to families affected by disability. They help families connect to others that understand, in a judgement-free zone. They provide care and encouragement to children and adults who face the daily limitations of disability and for the caretakers in the family that are often isolated and overburdened.

So, besides ranting, why have I shared all this? Well, for starters my blog was started as a way to educate others about what suffering is, how it feels, and most importantly, to share the love of God in Christ Jesus- His goodness, loving-kindness, mercy and grace to sustain His people.

But, today I also share all this to ask for YOUR HELP!! September 3rd, in Oak Brook, IL, my family and many others will participate in the Joni and Friends Walk-N-Roll 5k to raise awareness and funds to help those families touched by disability. I am asking you all to get involved. Would you:

  1. Join my team (Tenacious Turtles) and come walk with us? Come meet some new people, learn more and be encouraged!
  2. Donate to support this wonderful ministry and help me meet our team goal of $1000?
  3. Share this info with your friends and family to help us meet our goal, even exceed it?
  4. Turn and walk away, forgetting you read this and decide it doesn't effect you?
My prayer is for us to have a record breaking donation year! I hope that sharing my story, my struggles, encourages you to get involved and make a difference. Reach out with a kind word, or an offer to help a family you know whose lives are affected by disability......you all know at least one, even if it is somebody in a motorized cart in a grocery store struggling to maintain a little independence and dignity.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Defying Description

Have you ever been asked a question similar to "how would you describe chocolate to someone who has never heard of it or tasted it"? I find myself thinking along those lines when trying to put into words my experience this past week at the Joni and Friends Family Retreat. First, let me just start by saying if you, a friend, family member, neighbor or anyone you know has any type of disability, you need to go check it out! (Go ahead and do it right now, I can wait)

JAF Family Retreats are held in several locations each summer across the US. They also have international retreats as well. The website explains that it is a safe and caring environment for families with special needs, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. It was a truly amazing and unforgettable week! I have never experienced anything like this camp anywhere else in my life. It did not matter what your ability or disability level was, everyone was just treated with such love and respect. I witnessed what it truly means to be the hands of feet of Christ in a very real way. Volunteers helped with everything from bathroom needs, to feeding, to just being a true friend and so much more.

Each human being is created in the image of God, and although we are marred by sin and disease and death, we are all worthy of respect. I shed so many tears this week as I heard stories of how families and individuals have been touched and lives changed at Family Retreats. There is likely no place else on the planet where you can worship with such a variety of people. There are no judgmental glances or words when your child yells out, or runs around, or throws themselves to the ground. There is freedom and acceptance at a level I did not expect and cannot really explain. Disabilities ranged from mild to profound. It is humbling to see all the volunteers (many of whom are teenagers) give selflessly of their time to give families a break from the round the clock care that many of the campers need.

This was my first time doing anything like this and I was nervous that I couldn't handle it. What if I said or did the wrong thing? What if I was physically unable to keep up or do my job? All that worry was quickly washed away as I realized that I was finally in the one place where others would understand my fatigue and my limitations. It was one of the most forgiving and grace-filled weeks of my life. I enjoyed daily hugs and high fives from some of the campers, and they will be missed. I learned a lot about myself, both my strengths and weaknesses, and about God's sustaining grace and overwhelming mercy to gently show me my sins, help me to love others and give me His strength to get through the week.

We are back home and I am knee deep in dirty laundry, unopened mail and staring at an empty fridge. I really want to hop back in my car and go back to Michigan for week 2, but alas it is not to be. Only 51 more weeks until I can do it all over again though!!

This week's verse was from Nehemiah 8:10 "The joy of the Lord is my strength" and I can say I experienced that joy this week! Tears and pain and fatigue were plentiful, but overarching it all was God's joy.

Would you consider coming and serving alongside me next year? If that isn't a possibility, maybe you can give so that we or others can go serve (all volunteers have to cover all travel, lodging and meal expenses), or offer a scholarship to a family who could use a welcoming vacation among friends. Share the gospel message and love of God with those families affected by disability and be the hands and feet of Jesus in a real, loving and practical way.

Be encouraged and enjoy our theme song from the week!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Christian Service

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to be served, and to give His life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45

So many times I have approached a task by thinking that I have something to offer, that I can do something to be a blessing to others. You would think by now that I would know better! God has shown me over and over again (apparently I am a slow learner) that whenever I show up to serve others, or to complete a task He has given me to do, that it is I who am blessed. I learn and grow each time. It is God who purposes and places us to perform the tasks He has called us to do. It is the LORD'S work, not ours. He uses a variety of people in a variety of places and circumstances to accomplish His will and for His glory. We may not always like the task He has given us. We may not be happy where that task leads us (49 degrees in Michigan this morning....and we packed for summer), but we need to remember that it is NOT about us! It IS and always SHOULD BE about HIM ALONE!!!

"...whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

We should work and serve "heartily, as unto the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance." (Colossians 3:23-24) We are not to be self seeking. Romans chapter 2 warns us that it is "God, 'who will render to each one according to his deeds' : eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness - indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil.....but glory, honor and peace to everyone who works what is good." Rewards are not given based on our success, but on our faithful service.

If you know me at all, you know my many weaknesses. I am a detail-oriented, perfectionistic, control freak, that has a hard time "going with the flow"!! This week I am serving at Joni and Friends Family Retreat with my husband, Chad, and my daughter, Katherine. Once again God is at work in my heart. Things may not always go as planned, but God is faithful and patient to show me His goodness and kindness through others. This week our theme is the JOY of the Lord is our strength from Nehemiah 8:10. The week is just getting started. I am tired already, and because of my disability I don't have a lot to do. I have way more free time than I expected. It is difficult to get around this large campus. I feel a bit isolated. I am not one of the families or campers here, but I am also not really one of the STMs (short term missionaries). OK, technically that IS my "job title" and yet I am only working a couple hours each afternoon sitting in the bookstore 3 days this week.

Why am I telling you all of this? It is part confession and part (hopefully) inspiration. Last night I returned to my room and wondered why am I even here. I am too tired and have too much difficulty getting around to do all the things I anticipated. I am new here and don't know where to really go do something that I can do to be useful. I feel under utilized. I. I. I. I. Yep! Last night I realized it isn't about ME. God didn't bring me here to serve Him so I could throw a pity party for myself. So I woke up this morning and read and prayed and found a great sermon to help me get my eyes focused back here they should be.

My eyes should be on Jesus, and my service offered to Him. It is not about me. It is not about what I want. It is not about my abilities or inabilities. It was never supposed to be. Here is Alistair Begg's introduction to the sermon that greatly blessed me today- "All who are called to Christ are called to service. With any ministry, it is important to keep in mind that it is the Lord's work; He assigns the tasks and uniquely gifts a variety of individuals to work together to fulfill His plan, for His glory. The ideal place to serve God is wherever He has placed you, doing whatever He has given you to do. As Paul notes in his closing remarks to the Corinthians, great opposition often accompanies effective ministry."

Such a good reminder that when God hands us a job to do, we need to go and do the job! Accept your limitations- you can't do everything. Embrace your responsibilities- you can do something. We cannot worry about whether or not we do it perfectly. It is not about whether or not you like this job, or like him/her you are working for or with, but instead, it is about doing the work of the Lord. What I should be concerned about is 'am I doing the work of the Lord?' That is the real issue.

Once again I am humbled and repentant. I am thankful for the work that God is doing in my heart as I learn to submit and to trust and to lay down my life in service to Him. So I carry on, not in my own strength but in His. I head out to meet and talk to as many people as I can, because God has already shown me that it is the little moments- a kind word, a gesture, or just being available to can be a blessing to others and to myself. I am here this week to serve God in the way He has prepared in advance for me to serve. As much as anyone here, I have a lot to learn about myself, others and the Lord of the universe. May God alone be glorified!!

Get up and go do the job to which YOU have been called.......

"Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Celebrating Joy

Back in 2013, I wrote about my daughter, Katherine, who was about to go serve for a second year at Joni and Friends Family Retreat. I am proud to say, she has now served four consecutive years, and is preparing for her fifth next month. I am excited to announce that in June, my husband, Chad, and I will be joining her!! She is super hyped that we finally signed up to go along! Their theme this year is about celebrating joy, which makes me think of these verses from James chapter 1:

"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the
testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience
have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete,
lacking nothing."  ~James 1:2-4

Some days it feels as if my life is one continuous trial after another. I am both excited and nervous to go and serve this summer. There is not much new to report about my health, but I definitely feel that the numbness and weakness are getting worse to the degree that I have decided to try the final choice in medication. I have struggled recently dealing with my need for help with so many of my daily activities. Katherine assures me that if ever there was a place where it is okay to be unable to do something, to be sick, in pain, or need to rest, it is at a JAF Family Retreat. My next appointment is on May 13th, my birthday, *shameless plug*, and I will discuss starting Ritixumab at that appointment. I am going to ask that we start it after my return from Family Retreat, since I do not want to be sick during that! In the meantime, I am trying to adapt to my new "normal", praying God might be merciful and bring healing and that the medication might be effective without any of the very serious side effects.

Regardless of my current health issues, I have joy in knowing God, knowing He can still use me, despite my disability and circumstances. I trust that my trials are producing patience in me. I am learning to be more compassionate, which is historically not my strong suit - just ask Chad how sympathetic I am when he is in pain or sick! I am thankful for all that God has done (and is still doing) in me. I look forward to being at a place where no one judges me by my inability to do something, but where they simply see me as a child of God, created in His image to bring glory to His name. Ultimately my joy comes from knowing that Christ has secured my salvation, and "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17)

I covet your prayers for my health to get through this upcoming mission trip. I know God is faithful and will strengthen me to accomplish all that He has called me to do. I pray that God will revive my own heart, as well as let me be an encouragement to someone else. I am truly feeling blessed that I will get to serve alongside some of the greatest people on earth (just ask Katherine, she can verify this)! I cannot wait to return home with pictures and stories to share! 

Are you letting trials steal your joy or keep you from doing something for God? Don't let trials hold you back! Keep your eyes upon Christ, and He will give you strength. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Hope Springs Eternal

Spring is always such a glorious time of year in the Midwest. After a few months of cold and dreary weather, rays of sunshine help to boost my mood. Birds are building nests, the tulips are blooming, and signs of life have returned with the sounds of children playing in the neighborhood. We always joke about hibernating during the winter, and that isn't far from the truth; between the wind, ice and snow, I am stuck at home more often than not, and we rarely see neighbors. Spring brings sunny days, awakening in us the knowledge that warmer weather is just around the corner.

It has been a very rough winter. I have not blogged much, partly because I haven't felt well, and partly because I feel the need to having something important to say; to have a well thought out analogy to encourage others, and sometimes I honestly have nothing earth shattering to post. I tend to put too much pressure on myself and I hope to write more frequently this year with just everyday stuff.

Since my last post, I have started and stopped a few medications that have caused a lot of side effects, have had multiple colds, the flu, bronchitis, pharyngitis, and a sinus infection on top of everything else. Most recently I have been treated for an ulcer caused by the meds that were suppose to help the neuropathy. Stopping all the medicine to help my stomach heal caused a flare up of pain and triggered a round of migraines. A few weeks ago, I wasn't handling it all so well; lying in bed and praying that the suffering might end, whether through healing or death.

Suffering is not easy. I pray constantly for the grace to handle whatever the future may hold. I pray that I may suffer well, if suffering is to be my calling. I pray that God might be merciful and heal me, but most importantly I want His will to be done, and not mine. Chronic pain wears you down. There have been lots of tears and repentance. Repentance for my doubting, for my whining, for my constant pleading for mercy and striving against what God's plan for me is. I hurt. A lot. We all walk paths that are difficult. We all struggle and fight against the reality of our lives and our own selfish desires. I selfishly desire to be pain free; to live a long, happy and "normal" life. But when I am really trusting God, reading His word, and praying; I am reminded of the hope that is found only in Him. I am able to continue down this path, by His grace.

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28 ESV)

 So as I hear the birds chirping and put on my sunglasses to block the sun's bright rays, I am reminded that my ultimate hope is found only in Jesus Christ. My prayers were answered at the cross. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Corinthians 4:17). This life is temporary, but my hope is eternal. I may be in pain here on this earth, but the greater good was accomplished through Jesus, who secured my salvation. I will not suffer for all eternity apart from my Savior, and that promise keeps me going on days I want to give up. My eyes are lifted upwards and my hope springs eternal.

Are your eyes fixed upon Christ or on your own sufferings? Pray and ask for the grace to suffer well.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

When Grey Skies Hide the Silver Lining

After two months of testing and various appointments to try and determine what is causing an increase in my neurological symptoms, I have few answers. This is pretty much par for the course for me, as I seem to defy medical textbooks! I won't bore you with all the details but I have an autoimmune inflammatory polyradiculopathy. It seems to be progressing (faster than I would like for sure!) and includes numbness and weakness in both of my legs, from the hips down. Both muscle and nerve testing has come back showing demyelination of the nerves and atrophying of the muscles. Doctors are unsure of the prognosis, as they don't have a specific diagnosis.

I started two different medicines this past week, and as usual, I developed every side effect on the list. This has made my week very miserable, and made me in need of much prayer! It is hard to choose between taking medicines that can reduce my quality of life today, and possibly cause serious long term effects OR not taking them and seeing what course the disease takes. It makes me think a lot about tomorrow, and next week, and next year......and then it brings me back to the present. This very real, very difficult and sometimes dark, cloudy day. Some days all I see are the grey clouds. In the midst of the storm, it is hard to see the glimmer of silver shining through, ever so slightly, along the edges of the darkness looming overhead, but they are there.

This week, a few of those silver streaks have been the emails, texts and phone calls from friends. I have seen God at work in my family and definitely in my prayer life. I am encouraged to know how many people care for me- how many friends will come and help when I need it- all the fellow believers that are willing to get down on their knees and pray earnestly for me when I can't muster the strength to roll out of bed and pray for myself. There really is more silver than grey when I stop and think about it!

I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I do know the One who does. Today I choose to lift my eyes to Him, who is able to keep my feet from stumbling, and I remember a different, dark, grey day that had the most amazing silver lining of all. God gave to us His Son, who came and suffered, and died that we might live.

Matthew 27:45-54New King James Version (NKJV)
"Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”....... And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'"
 
I will end with these lyrics from Selah's song. No matter how grey the skies above you may seem, lift up your eyes and see the Bright Shining silver lining! For truly He IS the Son of God and if you will simply place your faith in Him, He will preserve you. 


"How Deep The Father's Love For Us"



How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom