Sunday, May 20, 2018

Second Time Around

Last week, we failed our final construction inspection with the city. While the elevator itself is working and state approved, the entire project is under a local building permit. The main reason we failed was due to little details that had been overlooked. These things should be easily remedied this week, but it is just a symptom of a bigger issue. I won't bore you with all the stories of delays, and problems, and bad workmanship, and worker issues. I could fill a page or two with complaints and vent about the last several months, but I will try to keep it brief.

There is a saying "the devil is in the details" which is definitely true during our elevator project, but even more true is that God has been in the delays. I am a hard-working, type-A, detail-oriented person. I can attest that being home with these slow-moving workers, watching them skip steps, and forget things, has been SO painful! They probably aren't thrilled with my constant corrections and reminders either, but I learned early on in this project that if I didn't say anything, it would just grow into a bigger problem tomorrow. If you know me, then you know I am not one to shy away from confrontation! This elevator project has had it highs and lows (or should I say ups and downs?). It has definitely tested my patience!

The whole construction process started in December with a quote, and then moved to a signed contract and deposit on January 9th. At first, there seemed to be a possibility that I could have a working elevator by Easter (which happened to be on April 1st this year.....April Fool's Day). The "finish line" soon became April 15th, then maybe May 1st, then "by the end of May for sure."

I love to take the shortest, straightest route between two points, and hurry on to the finish line. Not that I rush through things and sacrifice quality, but I don't dilly-dally. Schedules rule, and I am all about staying focused!

In life, and as well as in construction projects however, we frequently end up on a winding, crooked, indirect road, full of cracks, bumps, obstacles, hills, twists, and turns. The journey is hard work and difficult, and at times seems impassable and unlikely to end. It is in those moments that we can have real growth. We learn a lot about our selves, like what is really important to us and how we treat others when we are under stress. Taking the long way teaches us how to deal with frustration and disappointment. In the end, we can grow bitter and angry, or we can grow more patient and loving.

Life isn't a race. Just getting to the finish line isn't the point. Whether the elevator remodel took 6 days, or 6 weeks, or even 6 months, isn't what really matters at all. What really matters is that at the end of the project the elevator works, and even more so, that I learned something along the way. I need to remember that each of the workers were also created in God's image, and I am to show them love, as a faithful witness to Christ. (Trust me those workers honestly drove me crazy at times for numerous reasons)

This isn't to say we have to be doormats. I actually had a confrontation with one of the workers in which I had to tell him he was not welcome to come back into my home after he yelled and swore at me. These trying situations require us to remember that, apart from Christ, there is nothing different between "them" and "us". I can also say that because the job went on so long, I got to know a few of them on a deeper level, and had several opportunities to share the Gospel with one at length.  That would not have happened if I just let anger rule when the schedule wasn't met, and the sloppiness persisted.

When things don't go according to our plans, or confrontations happen with other people, we can choose to recognize that this is an opportunity to learn and to grow, being thankful that God, The Great Carpenter, is busy sanding and chiseling to rid us of our rough spots, revealing our sin to us. He is there graciously allowing us to see our sin, repent of it and trust in Him, and hopefully even use us in the midst of the chaos to further His kingdom; to share the hope found only in his Son, Jesus Christ.

By the end of this week, we fully expect that the remaining details will be completed, the village will give us final approval, and we can take down the orange building permits that hang in our windows. After that, some finishing touches (new light fixtures, towel racks, painting, etc) should be all done by mid to late June, and this will all soon be a distant memory. We will have reached the finish line, although the path we took to get there will have been more bumpy than expected. Hopefully we will be a little wiser, having learned more about ourselves. More importantly, I hope I learned more about God and His providential care. I pray I have learned that I can trust Him more fully than I did when this all started, knowing He has steered me along this winding road. I pray that He used me through this all for His glory, and my good, and that He is at work in the heart's of a couple workers that I would have otherwise never met.

I pray you can see God at work guiding you along whatever long, tiring, and difficult path you are currently traversing. One day you can say "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7) and you will hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21)


Until Next Time~
Shari

Monday, April 23, 2018

It's About Time

Hello! Thousands of seconds have ticked by between my last blog post and this one, which is literally about time. With very little thought I can come up with a long list of song lyrics and sayings that mention the word or concept of time. Some talk of "time flying by" while others ponder "making up for lost time." We can surely all admit to "wasting time" at various points in our lives, and I bet most of us have been told that "time heals all wounds." While that may not be totally true, I do think time can make us remember things differently than we felt when going through the events. 

Looking back causes me to reflect on a number of physical abilities I used to have, and think of them in a more favorable light than I perhaps once did, though I am quickly reminded to not spend my remaining years looking in the rear view mirror. Contentment comes when I choose to embrace this moment in time, be thankful for it, and enjoy where I am right now. Minute by minute I get through each pain-filled day by God's grace, not by reminiscing about what used to be, or what could be, but by simply being grateful for what is.

So, the topic of time was on my mind since I saw the cardiologist today. I completed the 30-day heart monitor, and then tried 30 days of medication for the arrhythmia I have. Thankfully they were able to record a few of the events on the heart monitor, so an implanted device is not necessary. YAY! They did not see any A-fib (which was their biggest concern). (For those of you interested, there were PVC's, and PAC's that caused atrial runs/PSVT.) I have decided since this isn't dangerous, to forgo any more medication at this time, and just follow-up with the doctor if anything changes. Thank you all for your prayers, and praise God that this is nothing serious!!

The constant pain continues, some days being worse than others. I manage each hour as it comes, trying to minimize medication usage, but still get enough relief that I feel halfway decent. It is quite the balancing act! Upcoming appointments with both the neurologist and new rheumatologist to discuss long-term treatment, will hopefully provide more relief than I am currently experiencing! The battle continues one day and one medical decision at a time. I still covet your prayers! This is a long, hard road I am on, that comes with many difficult decisions to be made.

The elevator has been on hold, as we have been awaiting a backordered door. We had anticipated being done (or nearly done) by now, but we have hit one snag after another. "If it can go wrong, it will" pretty much sums up the construction process thus far! Lord willing, we will get things wrapped up and inspected by the beginning of May. Stay tuned for final pictures!

Hopefully each of you will make some time to enjoy this beautiful day! Each day is a gift to be thankful for, so stop looking in the rear view mirror, and look around at where God has brought you to in this very moment, and give Him thanks and praise for bringing you here!

Until next time~
Shari

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Garbanzo Beans and Other Things

Many years ago, when our children were actually children, Chad and I were having lunch along the lakefront near the planetarium in Chicago. I was on one of my health kicks, and had made a new recipe for some bean salad, that I packed without tasting first. Sitting in the grass overlooking the water, we started to eat. I soon realized that I was no fan of garbanzo beans, or at least not cold, out of a can, in a bean salad. I started to pick them out, and fling them over to the side, where the seagulls instantly swooped in to help themselves. (I will digress for just a moment, because this day has two funny stories!) If you are not aware, seagulls can be very aggressive and unafraid when trying to eat your lunch, and we actually got up and ran away leaving most of our items, including cooler and blanket, because they were literally swarming us, and a bit scary!

But, the reason I bring this story up, is that the seagulls, while they did seem to enjoy our chips and sandwich we left behind, apparently they did not like garbanzo beans either. One gull after another picked one up in it's beak, only to spit it back out. We were laughing about all of this, and it is one of those memories you tend to bring up from time to time.

I have been a bit MIA lately on social media, and even in real life. I have had to cancel several visits with friends, and even some doctor appointments. I have been dealing with a LOT of pain. The doctors also decided to try another 30-day wearable heart monitor before they implant the long term one. This is part of my prayer request by the way. I am 16 days into the 30 days, and still have not been able to record the intermittent palpitations I have been having. I am praying for a strong one, that is captured on the recorder in hopes of avoiding the implant.

In addition to all this, I got a cold last week. A cold that has hung on through several boxes of tissues, and not been helped by OTC cold meds. A cold that has lead to a deep cough and plenty of sinus headache pain. Last night, I was feeling very sick, and my headache was getting worse. Chad picked up some Panera soup for dinner, and I got worse as the evening wore on. That headache turned into a horrible migraine. With all the cold meds, pain meds, steroids, and other things I have been on, I waited too long to take the migraine medications, because of drug interaction worries. I finally called the pharmacist around 7 pm, and started the "rescue med" drugs. After several hours of pain, made so much worse with every cough and sneeze, and the inevitable vomiting because of the migraine, I dozed off, cuddled up with my bucket a few times, only to wake up at 2 am and start the course of meds all over again. By 5:30 this morning, my headache was finally gone, but my cold seems worse today.

Garbanzo beans, or you may know them as chickpeas, are perhaps still not my favorite, but I do LOVE hummus, and was surprised to know that is the main ingredient. So, why do I bring this all up? (those with weak stomachs may want to skip ahead to the next paragraph) The "soup" Chad got me was the turkey chili, which has garbanzo beans, and reminded me of the story above, but also, after last night, I was reminded how much I am not a fan of them.

The chronic pain is very difficult, but when it is increased with a flare-up, and then compounded upon with other problems, it becomes unbearable. The kind of unbearable that leaves you weak on a bathroom floor, cold and sick, hugging a toilet in the middle of the night, and begging God for relief. I will be honest I asked for healing, but I also prayed for a more permanent kind of relief.

On a good day, my hope is to grow old with Chad, see future grandchildren grow up, and hopefully walk with the Lord. What joy could be greater than to see your children, and grandchildren, generation after generation, come to know and love the Lord?! (3 John 1:4; Psalm 78:6)

On a bad day, this light and momentary suffering draws me into the strong arms of my loving Savior, and makes me long for glory, when He will wipe every tear from my eye, my pain will end, and I will dance again. Today is likely not that day, but if it were, I would be ready. No matter what your circumstances are, or how old you are, this day is fast approaching and comes without warning. Are you ready?

I am very thankful for a my husband who was right there with me all night, losing sleep, so that I might find rest. I am thankful for my dear friend, who is currently studying the book of Job with me, as last night I was feeling a bit of Job's despair. I am also thankful to pastors who faithfully expository preach through God's word. I have been re-listening to the series on Job from Pastor Megchelsen, which has been a wonderful reminder of God's purpose in suffering, my call to suffer well, and to know that my life is not meaningless. Sometimes, in the midst of all this, it is easy to feel like I have no purpose, and his sermons this week have really reminded me that even in the little things I am able to do, God is at work.

I pray you are able to lean on the strength of God even in your weakness. No matter how dark the moment is, God's light does shine through. Keep your eyes fixed upon Christ! I truly appreciate your prayers. This has been a rough couple of weeks. May God's will be done! Thankful for you all <3

Until Next Time ~
Shari

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Wait and See

Thursday morning started like any other, except my left eye was irritated and my vision seemed a little blurry. Yesterday I woke up, and it was worse. I quickly noticed that when I covered my right eye, everything seemed dimmer and gray. My eye ball actually hurts, not a lot mind you, but enough that I feel it, and that isn't normal. The medical geek in me decided to do a pupil reaction test to light, and quickly discovered that my left pupil dilated (it should constrict) when I shined a light in my eye. The right side seems normal. This concerned me enough to call my optometrist and go see her a couple hours later.

She confirmed that I had "afferent pupillary defect" (pupil dilates instead of contracts), and that my left optic nerve was larger than the right. With the other test results, symptoms, and my complex medical history, she said she thought it was Optic Neuritis. She called the neuro-ophthalmologist at Aurora Eye Clinic, and they squeezed me in an hour later. This doctor (who was wonderful by the way), said she thinks it is likely Optic Neuritis, but my vision had not deteriorated enough to justify the normal treatment plan of 3-day IV steroids, which will make me "very sick" according to her, inpatient at a hospital. I am supposed to call immediately if anything changes, and I will see her again next Friday. She said I may have caught it early enough that it hasn't gotten that bad yet. Symptoms sometimes develop over 7 days or so.

So we wait and see. At least I hope I still see. Thinking a lot yesterday about how we take for granted so many things our body does with ease, until it doesn't. I watch people breeze up a set of stairs without a second thought, and I wish I had been more thankful for that ability. Now, I look around and see beautiful colors, and am thankful for my vision. May I encourage you today to take a step back, look around, and spend some time being grateful for some of the functions your body performs without a second thought.

"I will praise you, 
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
and that my soul knows very well."
~Psalm 139:4

Please pray that whatever is going on clears up on its own without getting worse. If things do progress, pray that I will catch it early and the treatment would be effective, without making me "very sick."

I stumbled upon this song this morning by Chris Tomlin, and am so very thankful that God is "sovereign in my greatest joy, sovereign in my deepest cry." Be encouraged, in whatever you are facing today, if you are in Christ, God is with you.

Until next time-
~Shari

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Results Are In

Thank you all so much for your prayers. I was able to see my MRI report and will return to the doctor on January 2nd to see what is next for me. The MRI shows one new, mildly bulging disc. It shows more degenerative changes to the two other herniated discs with bone spur growth, which are pressing on the nerves causing my arm numbness.

So, what does all this mean? Thankfully it means that my upper body is not affected by the newest neurological disease. However, it does mean that the Undifferentiated Spondyloarthropathy, that I was first diagnosed with in 1998, is causing continued degeneration. This causes me a lot of pain, and is now making my arms/hands numb. This can be treated with medications, physical therapy, and surgery, but is also an autoimmune disease that is not "curable."

Please pray that the doctors and I would have wisdom as to the best course of action. Please pray for pain relief. In addition, I will see the cardiologist on December 29th, because of continued abnormal heart beats. Hopefully the next two weeks will provide a few options that can help.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Until Next Time
~Shari

Friday, December 8, 2017

Like It Really Matters

The internet has changed the world. Growing up, I still went to a library to research answers, talked on a phone with a cord, and the only games I played were done with a board (until I got an Atari). Recently I have really appreciated that I can sit on my couch and schedule appointments, order food, research anything, and keep in touch with distant friends and family. This is particularly of interest to me because of my disability. I have mentioned plenty of times how living with a disability can be isolating. It also makes getting out and about more difficult. If going to a library to research an answer was still the only way to get information, I am afraid many of my interests would just not be investigated further.

The internet has a lot of great attributes. Besides the things listed above, we have instant access to world wide news, endless music, and how-to videos. It has done many good things, but it also can make it too easy to stay isolated. It is less personal in a lot of ways. It is nothing like real life fellowship, and is a poor substitute for a visit with friends. We have gotten so use to using the internet for everything, that we rarely question what we read. Now fake news spreads like wild fire. We read, click share, and believe things, without ever doing our own research. This internet complacency is obviously not good, and sometimes I fear what our world will look like in a couple decades of social isolation and fake news!

This whole post arose out of this photo that popped up on my FB page a this morning-



Another thing the internet, and social media in particular, has done is entice us to seek approval. We constantly check our phones afraid we might miss something. It is easy for the internet to make us a bit neurotic. We post and watch to see if there will be likes and comments. Viral posts and videos are like striking gold in our society today. Attention-seeking and people-pleasing feed our desire to be "liked." We have a tendency to become self-centered. We feel disappointment when our friends are taking their third vacation this year, and we aren't going anywhere....again.

Does it all matter? Does it matter if everyone likes our funny cat video, or our vacation photos? Should it matter? Of course it is easy to say no, it doesn't matter. We say, "I don't care what everyone else thinks." Then, we are privately disappointed. (Am I alone in this?) Part of the reason I share my struggles is because it appears to me while scrolling through my newsfeed that everyone else's life is perfect. Or at least it is easy to start thinking that way. 

"My husband got a raise" 
"My child won an award" 
"We just bought a new home" 

We see smiling family photos and happy stories. We begin to wonder why we can't get our acts together like everyone else. Rarely does someone post things like:

"I lost my job and have no money for food"
"My spouse cheated" or "I cheated"
"I yelled at my children today"
"I am hurting/struggling"

The internet and social media would have us to believe we are different. We are failures and everyone else is successful. Bitterness, sadness, shame begin to creep in to our hearts, as we compare ourselves with others.

We must be vigilant over our hearts. There is a war going on. Actually there are two wars. There is a war raging within us, one between the spiritual man and our sinful flesh. The other war is the spiritual battle that goes on in the heavenly realms for your very soul (Ephesians 6:12). The battle is real, and it has serious, life-threatening consequences!

As believers, we are called to be pleasers of God, and not people pleasers. We need to do and think what God would "like", what is pleasing to Him, and not do things hoping others will "like" it.  We live in a society that tells us that you are nothing if you don't have fans, followers, and likes, but we serve a God that calls us sons and daughters. We have been grafted in to His family vine. We are to be followers of Jesus Christ. We ought to live lives, like the apostle Paul, that allow us to say "Be imitators (followers) of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) Those are the kind of people I want to follow, and the type of followers I want!

How do we overcome this societal pressure? It will be a daily battle. We must fight to keep our eyes fixed upon Christ. We must remember that we are in a battle, and not get complacent. If you are not a believer, not a follower of Christ, do not think that you are excluded from this battle. Your unbelief, and denials do not negate the FACT that this war is raging around you. Your soul is the prize. You have two choices: serve God or not. By not serving God, coming to Him in repentance and faith, you are serving your soul up on a silver platter to the enemy who "prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) This enemy is Satan himself. Choose this day whom you will serve, for tomorrow is promised to no one (Joshua 24:15).

I will leave you with this; praying that you and I both would put on the whole armor of God, and open our mouths to proclaim boldly the mystery of the gospel.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel." Ephesians 6:10-19 (ESV)

Until Next Time~
Shari

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Saga, I Mean, Journey Continues

It has been a particularly difficult couple of months as I mentioned in my last post. I saw the neuro-oncologist on Tuesday, and I decided I needed to ask for prayer. I know many of you pray for me regularly, and I am thankful! I think knowing exactly what to pray for can make it easier to remember.

So here is the update in a nutshell. First, the recent increase in neck pain has been accompanied by arm/hand numbness, and weakness (this is both noticeable to me, but also measured on the doc's grip squeeze test thing-a-ma-bob). He has ordered a cervical MRI which is scheduled for Sunday, December 17th. The options are likely either:

  1. One of my herniations has worsened. If a herniation is bad enough surgery will be considered, but because I have started developing an excessive amount of scar tissue after operations, this will be a last resort only in the event of a serious herniation that is compromising the spinal cord that would have disastrous long term effects. Anything less serious than that will require more physical therapy, more injections, and likely just more pain to deal with.
  2. Or the even worse option is that the autoimmune neuropathy has spread to the peripheral nerves in my upper body now also. 

Please pray for it to be a herniation that can be dealt with non-surgically. Pray for less pain. Pray for God's will, and me to be fully accepting, trusting and for continued strength.

Next, I have developed another blood clot, now in a finger of my right hand. Several months ago, they removed one from a finger on my left hand. Surprise, surprise, the doctor said this is very rare, especially to have two so close together in time. They normally only see this type of blood clot in people like mechanics who would "bang their hands a lot." He feels that these smaller issues are likely all related somehow to the mystery underlying disease, and "we (meaning doctors) just are smart enough to put all the pieces together yet." I have an appointment with the hand surgeon on next Monday. Please pray this surgery goes well again. While this is a bit painful when I bump my lump, it is mostly just an annoyance, that will now require another surgery. Sigh...

I covet your prayers. This all makes me think of the current book study I am doing with a friend, "The Envy of Eve" by Melissa Kruger. If you are looking for a well written book, that has good questions at the end of each chapter, and want to really expose your sinful heart, I highly recommend this painful little gem!

We have just finished chapter 2. The author tackles the subject of coveting, and explains that we all have desires. The dictionary says that coveting = desires (like when I say "I covet your prayers"). The author makes clear that coveting is not simply having a desire. She defines coveting as "an inordinate or culpable desire to possess, often that which belongs to another."

We can desire wrong things (things clearly prohibited in Scripture), and can also desire good things (like a spouse, or children, or good health), but sometimes for wrong reasons. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be healthy, or be married or have children. In fact, I think that the Bible would call making wise lifestyle choices, marriage and children all "good."

As we covet, we become less thankful and more disappointed. The book continues to explain that the root of coveting is unbelief. Wanting to be pain free and healthy implies that I cannot be happy or fulfilled without those things. Even the way the doctors describe wanting to "improve my quality of life" tempts me to believe that my life isn't as good as it could be, and I covet.

When I want to be well so much that I forget to be thankful for all that God has done, I covet.

When good health and the ability to walk freely starts to make me compare myself to others (think that they don't appreciate or take for granted their health, and think that I deserve what they have), I covet.

Worse yet, at the heart of all that sin is the fact that I am saying to God, 'Christ alone is not enough.' Coveting says I need Christ plus one thing (or perhaps multiple things). It says that I don't trust God enough. I bear poor witness to those who don't believe, that God alone isn't enough.

I forget that He alone has chosen this path for my good and His glory. I forget that He formed me in my mother's womb, and He alone knows what's best for me. When I covet good health (or anything else), I forget that God sent His own son to die in my place, and He has redeemed me, and THAT is enough! I need to trust Him fully, look to Him alone for strength, and be thankful for His salvation.

It is so easy for our sinful hearts to want what we desire so badly, that we fail to stop and think what those actions say to God. So, I cry Lord "I believe; help my unbelief!" as the boy's father did in Mark 9:24. I know that God has heard my cries. I know He cares for me, and that I can trust Him. I know that Christ has provided a way of redemption for those who believe and repent, and that there is nothing this world can add to that. Nothing compares to His free gift, His sacrifice. Nothing. Not even good health. Please pray I would not covet good health.

Is there something you are coveting? Believe Christ Alone is enough to save us and meet all our needs. Repent today and turn to God in faith.

Until Next Time~
Shari