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

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall in Chicagoland

This time of year is bittersweet. The foliage is absolutely beautiful! I enjoy warm sweaters and hot tea. It is also a time of realization that soon snow and ice will cover the ground and keep me from getting out of the house much. It is difficult enough to get around with one leg that doesn't fully work but adding slippery surfaces and uneven terrain make things much more difficult, if not impossible, for me to navigate alone.

It has been several months since I last blogged. A lot has been going on here. It has been almost three years since I was diagnosed with Chronic Inflammatory Sensory Polyradiculopathy, and things are progressing faster than I would prefer. I have numbness, tingling, nerve pain and severe leg cramping in both legs now. The neurological symptoms are causing some muscle weakness, whichs hinders my ability to climb stairs and sometimes makes walking difficult (along with more personal and depressing symptoms that I will spare you the details of).

I wish I had a great analogy to tell or story to have this all make perfect sense and encourage your faith, but at the moment I cannot think of one. I have grown a lot spiritually these last few months. I have made new, irreplacable friends, who have studied scripture with me, driven me to appointments, sent me cards and let me hang onto their arm when I needed help getting out in bad weather. God has shown me so much love and compassion through these dear friends, and has grown me in my capacity to love and care for others as well. This is not the road I would have chosen for myself, and I am struggling daily to keep my eyes lifted up toward heaven, and not on my circumstances in this world. The battle against depression is real, and I have to immerse myself in God's truth (which is trustworthy) and fight against the feelings of my situation (which are not trustworthy).

I don't know how I will feel tomorrow. I don't know what all the tests will show, or if the medicine will help me or make me sicker again. There is SO much that I don't know, but what I DO know is this: God will never leave me or forsake me. The path He has chosen is for His glory and for my good. I don't need to understand it, I just need to be faithful in it, and I can trust knowing that He who called me IS faithful.

So if I can encourage you at all in your time of sorrow, pain, depression, grief, let it be in this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are people who have walked this path, some who understand your pain, and those who care for and love you, but greater still is a merciful and loving God who has made Himself available to all who would believe and call upon the name of the Lord. Confess your sins, admit your utter need for His forgiveness, His Spirit, His righteousness, and cling to the Anchor for your soul. He can get us through this and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes! I rejoice knowing that He shall preserve my soul!

Psalm 121:

"I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.

The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the Sunday, May 10th Chicago Tough Mudder! After an entire year of trying to build stamina, we arrived early in the morning to 45 degrees, fog, rain and LOTS of mud! I quickly realized none of my "training" prepared me for this.

This was the third time our family was on the Tough Mudder course on Mother's Day, and it was BY FAR the worst weather and muddiest course we had ever seen. Our team, #letscarryshari, completed the course in about 5 hours with all 11 team members (Chad, Kate, Ender, Greg, Tom, Tiffany, Jason, Kris, Tony, and Kyle). It was quite possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done, but it was also one of the best days of my life!

As I sit here on Tuesday morning, two days post-event, there is not a muscle in my body that doesn't hurt! Many of my team members would say the same thing. The other 10 members of my team varied in skill and ability level, but EVERY one of them gave 110% and not one of them quit on me! I literally could not take a step in the deep, wet, mud without hanging onto at least one arm, and most of the way I needed to hold onto two different people. Together, we soldiered on. I was so impressed with everyone's commitment to helping me get through and over and under each obstacle and across every step of that 10.6 mile course, without complaint, even when we were all of the verge of hypothermia. And a special thank you to my niece, Libby, and her friends Amanda and Marissa, who drove three hours to volunteer for a 6-hour shift at the finish line, just to be there when I finished! <3

I am deeply touched, truly humbled, inspired and forever grateful to each and every one of them.I learned so much about myself, about my 10 teammates, about 3 spectators that came to cheer us on in that miserable weather even though they had never met me, about complete strangers out on the course, and about God. I was really encouraged that complete strangers stopped to help me, and to cheer me on throughout the course. God showed me His strength in my weakness, through each person He put alongside me on Sunday. Praising God that we all finished without injury and thanking Him for His grace that got me through. To God alone be all the glory!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bracing Myself

I haven't done much blogging lately. To be honest, I haven't given it much thought. I have been doing a lot of other things (some beneficial and some not). My most recent endeavors include trying to get as strong as possible and build endurance to do the Chicagoland Tough Mudder in May 2015. I am less than 90 days away from the event now, and thought I was doing pretty well getting ready for it, when my back started to hurt again; worse than before, and more then usual. I finally saw the doctor a few days ago, and she thinks I may have a compression fracture. I have had sharp pain in my mid-back since just after Christmas. Pain, that although I tried to ignore, made itself known in such a way it had to be dealt with, and soon!

I was given a back brace to wear to give me some additional support. This brace fits VERY snug and isn't so comfortable. It is a corset style brace, and when you lace it up, it holds everything in tightly. I am supposed to wear it when I am out and about and being active. After church, I couldn't wait to get to the comfort of my own home to undo the straps and velcro and relieve the pressure. AHHHHH! What relief to get out of that thing!

At 6 am this morning, I was laying in an MRI machine. I laid there thinking about how the machine spins the magnets around and makes it possible to see every detail inside my spine. The noisy *thunk* *thunk* *thunk* as the magnets move and create images, slice by slice, of our body. The MRI makes it possible for the doctor to see all the bones, and nerves and various other parts clearly, even though normally those items are hidden by skin.

All of this got me thinking about our lives. Have you ever tried to "hold it all together" while you are out and about, only to come home and let the real you come out? Once you are in the comfort of your own home, do you think as much about what you say and how you say it? Are you aware of your witness for God with your own family as much as while you are out in public? Are you concerned about what your family sees and thinks of you, or just the people at church? Sometimes, I think, it is easy to "cinch up" all our struggles and head out to church or the store and make it seem like everything is okay, only to walk through our front door and blow up at our children or spouse over a small issue.

Similarly, like the MRI lays bare our insides to all who view the images, we cannot keep hidden our sins from God. He knows our struggles and shortcomings. He knows where we fall short and need correction. Our corset cannot keep our sins in a neatly tied-up package, hidden away from viewing, from the one true and living God. No matter how hard we try to keep things hidden from others, we know that God is examining our hearts, slice by slice, and He knows all.

We feel the "pain" of sin, it makes itself known, just like my back injury did. It doesn't go away on its own, but needs to be acknowledged and treated. Ask God to show you the MRI of your heart today. Look to see all the areas where there is sin in your life. Submit yourself onto Him, humble yourself, and turn to Him in repentance. Forgiveness is found in Jesus Christ alone.

No need to hold back. Release that corset and say "AHHHHH!" as you enjoy the sweet fellowship with Him as He forgives your sins and heals you.

So, as I wait to hear the results of my MRI, and what those results will mean for my future Tough Mudder event, I will be praying that God will reveal to me the images of my own sinful heart, and I will be clinging to my only hope and salvation, Jesus Christ.