Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bloodlines

We just returned from southern Indiana and my family reunion. Let me start by saying that a drive that takes 5 hours without any stops (and trust me, we make LOTS of stops) was way harder physically than I expected, but I am so very thankful I made the trip! I got to see my father (been a few years), and aunts, uncles and cousins, some of whom I haven't seen in decades, and others I didn't even know I had!

One thing that struck me was that although we didn't really know a lot of the people, the common bloodline connected us in a way that made conversations easy and enjoyable. There were plenty of laughs, and hugs, and stories. This just has me thinking about family, and what that really means. You know I am getting more sentimental as I get older! :)

Sharing the same heritage connects us in a way that is difficult to explain. Have you ever stepped into an elevator full of strangers? I think we all know how quiet and uncomfortable that can be. When you are with relatives, that awkwardness seems to disappear. We feel a level of comfort that we don't have with strangers.

I also have learned that family relations can be difficult. We don't choose our family. This means that there will be people that you wouldn't necessarily choose to be friends with, but because they are family, you work to overlook their annoying habits, personality quirks, and other things that would normally drive you crazy. Family members can hurt you more deeply than strangers can too, because of the emotional connections we share.

Last night, I was thinking about the church. The Bible says that followers of Jesus Christ are adopted by God, making us brothers and sisters in Christ. When we walk into a Bible teaching church, filled with followers of Christ, there should be a level of comfort and connectedness like I felt at my family reunion. We share the same bloodline- that of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who shed His blood for us. Like our "birth" family, there can also be trying situations and difficult relationships with our church family members.

Unfortunately, families dissolve and fight. People get divorced, siblings argue and don't speak, and churches split apart. Why? That has been what I have been thinking about since this weekend. The most obvious answer to me is that we are all sinners. We can be selfish. We can set our expectation of others so high, that they can't possibly live up to them, and then we get disappointed and angry. Chad and I joke a lot about this actually. Long ago, God helped me to realize that the majority of our arguments were due to me expecting Chad to be and to do things he isn't capable of being and doing. In a lot of ways, I expected Chad to fill roles that only the Lord can. When God graciously revealed that my own selfishness was at the root of it, I set my expectations lower. I told Chad that I need him to work and provide, as God allows, and I will be content with that. I started to do all the things that I am capable of doing, and took my struggles to God in prayer. Very quickly I realized that I spend most of my days very content, and when Chad exceeded my expectations (which was easy to do when you just expect him to work), and he did something I wanted him too, I became grateful and told him so. Previously, I was just nagging constantly, and telling him he isn't doing enough. We fought a lot and it was damaging the intimacy that a married couple share.

So, what is the point of all of this? I guess I was thinking about what a great time I had this weekend catching up with relatives. I was also reminded of churches that I have been to that are unfriendly, and unwelcoming. It made me think that because of the shared bloodline- whether it is through your mother and father, or you are a believer connected through Christ's shed blood- we need to pray. Pray that we can be forgiving and that others will forgive us. Pray that we extend grace to others, and they will do the same. Pray that God would show us our own sinfulness before we dwell on the sins of others.

I will let you down. I will fail to do what I ought to do, and do things I shouldn't. I will upset you, say things I shouldn't and disappoint you. I hope that as family members, we can talk through our issues, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and offer grace and forgiveness. May we always be remembering that through Christ, God forgave us and has extended a large amount of grace to us, and we ought to do the same.

The older I get, the more important my family is to me, both the church family I see frequently, and the one of my heritage. There isn't anything I wouldn't do to help my family in need, and I pray for y'all. (For my southern girls!)

~Until next time,
Shari

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Rain and Plinko

As I sit typing this post, it is raining outside. There is something comforting about sitting on my couch drinking coffee, and watching the raindrops hit the window and run down the glass. Each drop that hits the window takes a different path down the window. Occasionally a drop will join in a previous stream of water, only to jut out to the side and continue down it's own path. Maybe I am crazy (depends who you ask!), but it reminds me of the game Plinko from The Price Is Right. (click here if you don't know what this is)  I used to watch this game show with my grandmother as a child, and after she passed away, I still tuned in when I wasn't at school.

In the game Plinko, contestants would climb to the top of a large board filled with pegs. At the bottom of the board, were spaces labeled with various amounts of money that the person could win. I remember contestants running up the stairs, excited and confident they would release the puck in just the right spot to win the grand prize, The chip would hit a peg and bounce wildly from left to right and filter slowly down into one of the spaces. The buzzer would ring bzzzzzzzz. "Zero. Sorry you didn't win. Try your next chip." Each time they would strategically plan and listen to the audience screaming advice from the sidelines. Sometimes contestants would win a few hundred or more, and a handful of times I saw someone get the largest prize amount. The contestants that left with any money at all, while probably disappointed, still were just happy to have won anything.

With my 47th birthday just days away, feeling lousy, and realizing I could be 2/3 of the way through my life (a guess based on my genetic pool), I am thinking about all of this and our path through life. Some of us plan and strategize and seem to carve out our own path, like the rogue raindrop on my window. Others look to the crowd for answers. Still others, paralyzed with fear to make the wrong choices, meander through life bouncing this way and that.

No matter what path we choose in life, we all stumble over an obstacle, course correct, or even completely turn and change directions at times. There are places in our life where we run up those stairs with excitement and expectation, confident we are headed in a good direction, only to feel like the chip bouncing around down the other side.

No matter which path we take or how long it takes us to get there, we all end in the same place - death - "the great equalizer" as it is called. One day our physical bodies will cease to breathe and our hearts will stop beating, but this is where the story takes a turn. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that every person will die, and then face God's judgment. When our earthly bodies die, EVERY ONE of us will stand before God and give account of our path, our choices, our life.

Did we follow the advice yelled by those on the sideline? Did we bounce around aimlessly with our fingers crossed just hoping to get it right? Have we just gotten in line behind someone else and followed their path without really thinking about where we were headed? Were we convinced that every path would lead to the "grand prize"?

The Bible makes clear there is only ONE path that leads to eternal life. Those who follow all other paths will be cast "into the furnace of fire. [Where] there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:42) What a graphic picture and warning of Hell we are given in that verse! Jesus warns us that He is the only way to God and that path is narrow and few will find it (John 14:6; Matthew 7:13-14) For those of us who, by the grace of God, have placed our faith in Christ alone for our salvation have confidence that our earthly death will be the beginning of eternal life with God. For any who has failed to find the narrow way, your earthly death will be the beginning of eternal torment in hell.

Fresh on the heels of yesterday's post about making choices, let this be a further reminder of the seriousness of the choices we make and the path we take! Make no mistake my dear reader, there are really only two paths! Unlike Plinko, you either receive the "grand prize" or will hear the "Bzzzzzz" and realize there is no reward, only torment. You are either on the path to life or on the one that leads to death. You have chosen to place faith in Christ as Redeemer, Savior and Lord of all; or you have chosen to deny Him and walk away.

Heaven or hell.

Life or death.

Choose this day which path you will take!!

Until Next Time,
~Shari

Monday, May 8, 2017

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

I have watched several movies or TV shows that include a scene where the main character has to make a tough choice. They have just minutes or seconds to make a life or death decision. The first one that comes to mind is 'The Dark Knight', in which Batman must react quickly and choose to save District Attorney Harvey Dent or his love interest Rachel Dawes. Don't worry, no spoilers.

Making decisions can be difficult and have serious consequences. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do or which way to go. For me, this week, those choices have been medication related and very difficult. The meds I have been on recently have provided a decent amount of pain relief. They have allowed me to do some things I enjoy and complete many necessary tasks. It hasn't been a perfect solution by any means, but much better than living in constant pain unable to do almost anything or make plans. Unfortunately, my blood pressure has been elevated for the past couple of months, and isn't getting better despite low dose BP meds added to my daily routine. The doctor feels that the medication that is helping me with the pain is causing the high blood pressure. Ugghhh

Now I am forced to make choice. Stop the meds and live with the pain, or start two new medicines- one that may help with nerve pain, and one more addictive narcotic. They both should help lower my blood pressure and pain levels. They both also have other serious side effects and will likely make me drowsy. So I see my choices like this:

1. Stop the meds. Live in constant pain, with difficulty sleeping as a result (-1 point), and therefore get nothing done during the day that is necessary or enjoyable. (-1 point)
Bonus: my blood pressure goes back to normal which is good, especially with my family history and recent abnormal heart rhythms. (+1 point)
Conclusion = Score -1

2. Stop the old meds, adding the 2 new prescriptions. Likely relieving the pain while making me sleepy all day, but raise the risk of addiction (-1 point); therefore get nothing done during the day that is necessary or enjoyable (-1 point).
Bonus: my blood pressure goes back to normal which is good, especially with my family history and recent abnormal heart rhythms. (+1 point)
Conclusion = Score -1


Hmmmmm


I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place! Neither seems like a good way to go if you ask me. (I know you didn't, but I am telling you anyways!)

Like Moses, in Exodus 33, I find myself crying out to God for answers, to see God's glory, to feel His presence. Moses, asking God to see His glory, was placed in the cleft of the rock (similar to a rock and a hard place?), and God says "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you." God reveals to Moses that He is sovereign, compassionate and gracious, as Sproul's commentary notes, that in Jesus Christ, God's glory is revealed- both graciously and compassionately- through the Holy Spirit to all who believe.

Choices have consequences and side effects, whether we are discussing medications, or actions in our own lives. Some choices are easy, and have little long-term effect. (What should I wear today?) Other choices truly are a matter of life and death, for "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). (Where do I place my trust? Who shall I serve?)

I am thankful that the glory of God is revealed in Jesus Christ. That glory reveals "something of His nature, character, and power....God is glorified in the acts of salvation, because they exhibit His incomparable condescension, His inexhaustible love, and His limitless power.....and those He saves have contributed nothing to their salvation except their need" (from Sproul's footnotes in the Reformation Study Bible).

Oh what joy this brings my heart, when from deep inside this dark cave that feels as though it presses me from every side, His glory is revealed to me as a wonderful ray of light that chases away the darkness! I understand more fully His nature, His character and power, and as a result I learn to trust Him even more.

I am still deciding on my options, reading a lot about other treatments, monitoring my BP, and managing one day at a time right now. I will need to decide something soon. More importantly, there are choices that MUST be made today! Scripture is clear that sin is to be dealt with immediately, it's consequences are wide reaching and devastating. Today is the day of salvation, for no one knows what tomorrow will hold (2 Corinthians 6:2 & Ecclesiastes 7:14). Do not delay in choosing the only path that provides the cure we need. Place your faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, repent and ask for forgiveness. Remember that failing to make any decision, is still a making a decision. There is no other choice you will make with such life changing consequences.

Go now, check your vitals. Are there signs of life or are you a dead man walking?
May we all turn to Christ, the only solution to the greatest of all problems, and cling to Him in our need.

Until Next Time,
~Shari

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Okay, I admit it. I am a control freak! I like to think, and plan, and know every little detail about everything. I am not a risk taker. I am definitely methodical and deliberate. Herein lies the problem. The older I get, and the more trials I go through, the more I realize the need for control is a coping mechanism. Trying to make sense of everything and logically put it in a category to be dealt with is how I get through many of the daily issues with which I struggle. Control is an illusion, I have heard that, and know it is true. Control can also become a form of bondage, and disillusionment. When things don't make sense, and all the pieces don't fit nicely together, we become discouraged.

I will never be a person who flies by the seat of my pants. I will always plan, and organize; seeing each and every tree, and not the forest. Yet, in the midst of my pain, my medical treatment, and daily living, I have come to let go of a lot of the things beyond my control. I have found freedom and joy in trusting God to get me through. I know that He is in complete control. Nothing goes unnoticed or unchecked, and that helps me to rest in Him. He gently, lovingly, mercifully allows me to keep learning and trusting more and more. I still plan and research things. Knowing as much information  as I can, helps me to accept and deal with my reality.

I am fast approaching my 47 birthday, and the six month mark since I had the chemo treatment. The Rituximab drug should keep my immune system lowered for about 6 months, and so I need to make the decision to stop now, or keep taking it. Unfortunately, I did not get one of the clear answers doctors were looking for:

  1. I keep getting worse and they know the medicine did nothing to help, which would cause them to reevaluate if this truly was an autoimmune disease. OR
  2. I get better and they know for sure it worked and they are on the right track.

If you know me at all, you know I like to do everything the hard way! So my body went with option #3- I don't get better, but don't get worse either during the 6-month period. Then we must guess if the disease is so slow progressing that I would not have gotten worse with or without the chemo, OR the treatment helped in keeping the disease from progressing, thus keeping me from getting worse.

This is not an easy choice. This drug is toxic, and can cause a host of serious health problems all by itself. I have researched and sought doctor's advice, but in the end it all comes down to me just saying yes or no to another round of chemo. No one, but God alone, knows whether this is a good idea or bad, whether I really need the medicine or if I would be ok without it. I very much dislike the unknown, and some days I feel like I am jumping blind off the high dive, just hoping someone didn't forget to fill the pool beneath me, praying that there really is a pool there. I am thankful to know that having placed my trust in Jesus Christ both as my Lord and Savior, He has promised to keep me; to work all things for my good and His glory. No matter what I decide, I know that He has all the details worked out, and will help me navigate the unchartered waters I am wading into. No matter what happens, or what decision I make, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He gives me "eternal life, and [I] shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch [me] out of [God's] hand" (John 10:28)

Just as a quick update with all the other details:

My new wheelchair is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Last year while serving at JAF Family Retreat, during wheelchair training, we were told you don't say someone is 'confined to a wheelchair', as wheelchairs uses don't feel stuck in one, but they see it as an extension of their body that gives them the freedom to move about. Now, I finally really understand! It is empowering to be in control of your own chair (there's that word again), going where you want, and getting out of the house to locations I haven't made it to in a while, because I can't walk that much. SO much diferent than being "stuck" in a big, hospital- style wheelchair with someone else pushing you where they want to take you. It all makes sense now, and am so very thankful to have good inusrance to cover the extremely high cost.

Secondly, and on 4-20 no less (FYI it's a reference I just learned about the number 420 and it's connection to marijuana), I received my medical cannabis card a few months ago. I went through some anxiety just going to the dispensary the first time, and trying some of the products. There are hundreds of varieties, strains, methods of use, and it is all new to me. In the end, I cannot imagine why they would not legalize it and make it more available. The doctor recommended CBD oil, and I have tried a few different types. It isn't a cure, and I am still figuring out strains, and methods, and amounts (since it isn't prescribed, you have to experiment on your own to see what works). All in all, I am happy to report that the pain relief it provides decreases the amount of narcotics used, and has virtually no side effects. (This does depend on the product chosen. A couple types have made me a bit tired or dizzy, but less so than the narcotics do). This is all good news to me! 

Hope you are all well! Are you trusting in yourself to figure everything out, to find your own way, or are you trusting in Christ who already knows the end of your story? The only One able to keep you from stumbling.
Until next time ~
Shari

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Seeking the Lesser

Being sick stinks. It doesn't matter if you have a cold, the flu or a stomach bug, no one wants to be ill. Chronic illness is a difficult and unpleasant road, and I want off of it. There is rarely a day that goes by that I don't pray for God to heal me, to ease my pain, to make my body work right. I know that He is able. I started reading the book of Mark this morning, and although I have heard the story dozens of times, this morning it seemed to really touch my heart.


Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

"And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”"



The paralytic man was brought to Jesus to be made well. Jesus tells him that his sins are forgiven. People hearing this, grumble, question, and accuse him of blasphemy. It was Jesus' response that really hit me this morning, and was a great reminder. Jesus asks "which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? 

Jesus had already told the man his sins are forgiven, but it wasn't until Jesus healed him that "all were amazed and glorified God." May it not be that I would be a person who seeks a healing, a simple sign, or the "easier" of the two. Today I was reminded that for Jesus, healing me is the lesser, just frosting on the cake if you will. What I should be doing is thanking God for doing the greater in my life. My sins are forgiven!! I am amazed!! May I bring glory to God by telling you all, that it is God alone who forgives sin, and He provided that through His Son, Jesus Christ.

It may not be a sin to want to be well (although it certainly can easily become sin), but I urge you to seek the greater and not the lesser. May we quit seeking wellness, relief, an easy life, or a quick fix! Turn from your sin and seek the One who can do both the greater and lesser. Remember that forgiveness of sins is the greater work in your life; the greater gift and blessing. May my longing to be something I am not (in my case made well, it may be something different for you), be replaced with gratitude for what I am. Praise be to God-
I AM REDEEMED!!!

Until next time-
~Shari

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Judging By Everyone's Reaction...

You may have noticed that I avoid controversial (especially political) posts on Facebook. I am confrontational by nature, so it is not that I am a shrinking violet, but wisdom has taught me that online arguments are rarely beneficial.

Today I tread into controversial territory, prompted initially by my daughter who thinks I should become an advocate, and then by my frustration with the medical and legal establishments.

Judging by everyone's reaction, you would think marijuana is a bad word. Medical cannabis, to be exact. In Illinois, the governor signed the "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act" on August 1st, 2013. It has been over three years since cannabis became a legal option for several medical conditions, and a viable alternative to the normal pharmaceuticals that doctors prescribe.

As someone who is in a lot of pain, and has a qualifying condition, I have wondered if cannabis might be helpful. Just the fact that I have thought about trying it has filled me with shame and embarrassment. Now, three years later, I finally worked up the courage to ask one of my doctors in a quiet voice, for fear of judgment. Here is what my experience has been like.

In the past decade, I have been offered the following prescription medicines to help with pain, neuropathy, sleeplessness, and migraines. (I am not sure this list is exhaustive, as there as SO many for me to try and remember!)
Amitriptyline
Botox
Carbamazepine
Celebrex
Cymbalta
Darvocet
Demerol
Effexor
Fentanyl (pops)
Imitrex
Inderal
Klonopin
Lyrica
Maxalt
Morphine
Neurontin
Oxycontin
Prednisone
Prozac
Reglan
Topamax
Toradol
Tramadol
Vicadin

Out of this long list of drugs that I can remember being offered, I actually received a written script for about half of them. Out of those prescriptions, about half were shredded and never filled after I read about side effects and addictive qualities. I opted rather to remain in pain. Of the 25% of the list that I actually did get filled, many ended up in the garbage after a couple days. For example, on the third day taking Cymbalta, I was driving down the street feeling zoned out and had an overwhelming feeling that I should let go of the steering wheel and drive off a bridge. It scared me so much that I promptly went home and destroyed the rest of the bottle, avoiding all prescriptions for a while.

If you read about some of these, I would hope they would scare you too! Like the Fentanyl pops the doctor gave me to take at bedtime to help with pain and sleeplessness, along with a warning that someone should monitor me, since it can cause you to stop breathing! Wh-what!?!! Needless to say, I did not fill that script!

Doctors are so quick to offer these kinds of drugs to me, but when I inquired recently about the medical cannabis, here are responses I got:

  • One doctor told me it would be helpful, but doesn't want to get involved. Referred me elsewhere.
  • The doctor I was referred to said I that the first doctor really should take care of it.
  • Another doc said that if I take illegal drugs (wait, but it is legal in Illinois if I am qualified!), he would not see me again, and then requested a drug test.
  • Still another doctor thought I could benefit greatly, said it doesn't "get you high" and that it is so much safer than narcotics, but because federal laws prohibit it, he was afraid to lose his license. He did offer me a new pain medication if I wanted that instead.

I have been embarrassed during this process, and made to feel like an addict or criminal, which is sad. I am not even sure if I would like it, or if it would help me, but it seems like a less harmful drug than most of the ones listed above. There has been some promising science behind the many benefits of cannabis. Unfortunately, since it is still illegal at the federal level, there haven't been many legitimate clinical trials. So, why would it be so difficult to get marijuana legalized for medical reasons, if it could truly be helpful and less harmful? Why would doctors not want to study it and prescribe it?

A documentary I recently watched, uncovered the powerful lobby against legalized marijuana. The federal government classifies marijuana as a "Schedule I Drug" putting it in the same category with heroin. You might find it interesting that the same plant heroin is derived from (Opium), is the SAME plant that many of the narcotics above are made from.

The documentary investigated what groups are behind those powerful lobbying efforts. I was just as surprised as the person in the video to find out, that although "Big Pharma" does lobby against the legalization of cannabis, they are NOT the largest group of lobbyists behind the movement.

First, are the police and prison guard's unions. Police departments benefit from seizure laws, and that money pays for a lot of their equipment needs. Prisons are full of people serving time for marijuana-related offenses, and there is a fear many guards will lose their jobs. Second, and perhaps most surprising to me, was the alcohol industry. Their fear seems to be that people only have a certain amount of expendable income, and they don't want it spent on cannabis instead of alcohol. 

Putting away my soap box, and hoping we can all figure this out without condemnation. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below (keep it nice), and tell me do you think marijuana should be legalized? Should the medical community embrace it, study it and make it more available?


Resources (just so you know that all those meds haven't cause me to dream this all up!)

1. http://www.healthline.com/health-news/latest-science-of-medical-marijuana-022115

2. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2015/06/marijuana-science-drug-research-legality/

3. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/medical-marijuana-research-web

4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-truisms-wellness/201510/medical-marijuana-the-science-behind-thc-and-cbd

5. http://extract.suntimes.com/news/10/153/22052/wikileaks-email-reveals-alcohol-industry-tactics-against-legal-marijuana/

6. http://extract.suntimes.com/news/10/153/3870/top-anti-marijuana-lobby-groups-united-states/

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

As 2016 draws to a close and Thanksgiving is fresh in my memory, I am reflecting on how God has been working in my life, and the lives of my family, and friends. I have developed new and deeper friendships. I am surrounded by family and friends that have gone above and beyond. God's presence and peace have been made tangible to me through the love of those around me. I am so thankful to have such an amazing group of people willing to serve and encourage me.

I wanted to give a quick update on how things have been going.

The Good:
I am finished with the Rituximab (chemotherapy drug infusions). Since there has been some confusion, I just want to be clear that I do not have cancer. The doctors think the neuromuscular disease is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, your immune system kicks into overdrive to attack a body system that is not harmful. In my case, I have 2 different autoimmune diseases. This new one is attacking my nerves, the older one is attacking the connective tissue in my body. Normally, your immune system should fight hard to overcome a virus or bacteria, but not substances, like your own body or pet dander, that are harmless. I have been doing the chemo in hopes that it would lower my immune system enough to stop it from working so hard. If they can get it weak enough, the theory is that the disease will be stopped or slowed. Unfortunately, with a very weakened immune system, I am more susceptible to catching illnesses.

The Bad:
I was supposed to go for one more infusion in December, but the doctor decided that since I am not noticing any improvement, we should not continue. There is still a possibility that it "helped" in the sense that it may have slowed the progression of the disease, as I have only gotten a little worse since July. The medication will keep my immune system at a lowered level for about 6 months. I may notice a sudden worsening as we approach that mark, and realize that the infusions did help, and I will have to start again. (wait, so is this good or bad, hmmm??)

The Ugly:
Where do I begin? This year has been quite difficult physically, emotionally and even logistically. There have been a LOT of tears!  Daily pain, increased weakness, and difficulty doing all the things I used to do, has become a very slow process of coming to terms with my current reality. Learning to let go of some things, rethinking how to do other things. I am still learning to ask for help, and admit when I can't do something. Sometimes I feel like a shell of my former self. It is hard to recognize myself sometimes; depression, anxiety, isolation are all new to me. I am also struggling to deal with the lack of sleep (due to pain and cramping) and the need for pain meds (I hate taking any of them).

Last week I went to be fitted for a wheelchair. It was much more emotionally overwhelming than I expected. I had no clue there would be so many options to choose! It is VERY difficult to feel as though you are losing your independence. I am thankful for so many wonderful people in my life who are willing to help in various ways, but it is hard to admit you need their help. It is extremely humbling, and difficult to put into words if you haven't lived through it yourself. My husband (and a few friends) would say "stop being stubborn and let us do things for you," but to admit I can no longer do a task (especially one I enjoy doing) is not just a logical choice, it's an emotional one. Would it be easier for Chad to do the laundry or grocery shopping? Yes, of course, but I like taking care of my home and family. Frequently, I think it is worth pushing myself and then needing a nap or having to rest for a couple of days.

Sometimes it all just seems so overwhelming. Some days I wonder how I will get out of bed and actually be productive. Other days, as I see God at work molding me, sanding off the rough spots and drawing me closer to Him, my response is gratitude and joy. This holiday season I am thankful for the grace and peace of God; for His strength that sustains me, and for each and every one of YOU that He has brought into my life. You all help me in more ways that you can possibly know! Thank you all for your prayers, help and love. Thank you for being wonderful examples of Christ's love to me, as you lay your life down in service to Him. I am grateful for all the cards, the calls, the flowers, the texts, and rides. Thank you especially for your prayers and patience as I figure out my place and new level of ability. I love each of you! <3

If you are hurting, lonely, or struggling to get through each day, know you are not alone. When you find yourself in a dark place, a place of pain and uncertainty, reach out to a friend. More importantly, I pray that you might be able to lift your eyes up to the heavens, and cry out to God. He alone is the strength and salvation for all who call upon His Name.