, , , ,

The Most Amazing Come Back Ever

Nighttime waking has become a regular occurrence in my life. Since beginning Lyme treatments my body has taken to battling the disease under the cover of dark while I would much rather be sleeping. Many nights I’m awoken with hunger pains that I gladly remedy with a bowl of “healthy” ice cream (Halo Top is not the world’s most perfect health food but at night all food rules are off the table…especially since I eat my ice cream in bed.)

Last night it wasn’t two AM before I was awoken by a different kind of pain that is not easily cured with a bowl of ice cream. My arch nemesis was back… Literally.

The lower back pain was excruciating. No matter how much tossing and turning I tried I simply could not get relief or a moment of sleep. After moaning, groaning and making all sorts of pathetic sounds I reluctantly rose from bed and ran a bath.

A middle of the night bath is not an unusual occurrence in my tub. It has become my go-to strategy for pain relief when sleeplessness strikes but on this particular night the bath proved ineffective. When I stepped out of the tub I was still stuck in pain. There was no way I would be going back to sleep…. Not yet at least.

So it was on to pain relief plan B. 5:00 AM at-home yoga

“Yoga for the Spine” was a pleasant video and a wonderful stretch for the back but when it ended a dull throbbing remained. It was 6:00 AM when I rolled up my yoga mat and looked out the window with a heavy heart. I was frustrated, discouraged and tired. After a year of battling Lyme I had hoped these sleepless nights would have ended or at least lessened in severity.

Before I had even spoken a word in prayer my gaze was drawn to the window. Outside the sun was just beginning to rise, casting beautiful rays of the light through the leafy trees. At that moment Plan C came to mind like a light bulb turning on above my head…

Get out there and run.

Running (or in my case jogging) goes against conventional wisdom and, arguably, common sense, for a disease battling, eighty pound woman who is in severe back pain. It defied logic and a doctor’s orders.

But I ran anyways.

One short mile later I was sweaty, out of breath and, at last, out of pain. Pounding on the pavement must have knocked the aching out of my back because by the time I returned home I was experiencing sweet relief and collapsed in celebration on the front porch swing.

Right before I finally drifted off to sleep the thought of Jesus on the cross came rushing to my mind. When Jesus died on the cross it didn’t make sense to His followers. They could not understand why their Messiah had to endure such agony. They could not see what God was up to.

What the follower’s of Jesus had yet to realize is that Jesus’ set back into the grave was the set up for heaven and earth’s most amazing come back ever.

 

Jesus has defeated the grave, ascended into Heaven and forever He reigns on high. Since I have been united with Him in His death I have the glorious assurance of His Risen life. I need not fear a single pain or sleepless night because the resurrected Christ has secured my victory and in Him I have eternal rest.

Because Jesus is alive this suffering you see is not a set back. It is the perfectly planned setup for an incredible come back for the glory of our great and glorious God.

, , ,

Thirteen Pounds of Proof

Fourteen months ago I stepped on the scale and read the numerical reality of my physical condition. Sixty-seven ailing pounds.
At twenty-seven years old I was wasting away. According to body weight and BMI charts I should have been dead, comatose or at least bed ridden. My frame was so sickly and skeletal I could no longer look in the mirror. It was simply too upsetting. So, for the sake of my faith, I had to suspend my sight.

Now, after a year battling my arch nemesis, Lyme disease and its accompanying co infections, the pounds are naturally returning. Since I began this fight fourteen months ago I have gained thirteen pounds of beautiful, healthy weight. A thin layer of fat has returned to my bones and my skeletal frame is at last being covered. I can look in the mirror again. I am no longer cringing!
After eight long years my body is exiting the danger zone and entering the road to recovery. The downward spiral has been stopped dead in its tracks. The diseases that have been slowly destroying my body are being eradicated. I am being healed. I am being made new. And it’s just getting started! God isn’t finished yet.

Dear friend, are you facing a devastating reality? Is it so shocking and troubling you can hardly bring yourself to look at it? Have you been avoiding the sight of it?
Hold fast to the Lord! He is mighty to save. He is faithful and able to carry you over every hill and through every valley. As long as there is breath in your lungs and a beat in your heart, there is hope. God is not finished yet. He is the healer who redeems and restores.

 

Jesus said that in this world we will have trouble but to take heart because He has overcome the world. Being stripped down to sixty-seven pounds has caused my body trouble but has lifted my Spirit. I would not trade this ravaging experience because through it I have been witness to the incredible sustaining and healing power of God.

Now I know by sight what by faith I always knew to be true. The Lord our God makes all things new. I have thirteen pounds of proof.

, , , ,

Dandelions: A Beautiful Weed

For the past week I have been wrestling with dandelions and struggling to find the right analogy that describes what I see in them. I’ve tried to flee the very first analogy I saw in their weedy, lawn invading behavior but it has relentlessly chased me down. I am weary from running and can no longer escape the dandelion analogy that is staring me in the face…

Dandelions are to the lawn what chronic illness is to the body: a beautiful weed.

In every dandelion I see another invasion of sickness and disease. The yellow flowered weeds pop up without warning. As they grow they are a nuisance to well-manicured lawns. Dandelions are like disease at every stage of their life cycle. They bloom and then go on float into the air where they replant. Untamed, the pesky weeds go on to grow indefinitely, overtaking entire lawns.

Picturing an entire field covered in dandelions is a pretty image but not the lawn I had hoped for my life. I had always hoped for a manicured lawn with green grass cut on a diagonal. And to be perfectly honest I didn’t imagine myself as the one doing the mowing. In the dreams, I imagined a husband would be handling the lawn care. I had visions of planting flowerbeds with roses and watching children catching fireflies in the yard.

Those were the hopes and dreams I had for the lawn of my life, but now those hopes and dreams are covered in weeds. My life has been invaded by dandelions of disease. I’m covered from head to toe in symptoms and ailments that grow wild and free. I don’t have a bed of roses or even a single well-kept pot of flowers. All I have are bunches of dandelions. All I have is the brokenness of disease. All I have are weeds.

My yard full of dandelions had me defeated until I remembered a fondness I had of dandelions when I was a child. As a young girl I used to roam the yard picking them to make into bouquets. I would then go on to present them to my Mother. When my humble weed offering was given as a gift of love my Mother accepted them with joy and placed them in a special vase. She set the beautiful weeds on the windowsill right by the kitchen sink, right where my Mother could see them best.

In my Mother’s house the dandelions I picked were received like the finest of flowers. 

 

When picked with joy and gifted in love, my dandelions of chronic disease are accepted and cherished by my Heavenly Father. In God’s house my humble offering is received like the finest of flowers.  

My Lord does not see a weed in my symptoms and suffering. He sees a beautiful flower worthy of a vase and a place on the windowsill, right where He can see them best. All He asks is that I keep gathering my dandelions and presenting them before His throne with the faith and love of a child. All He asks is that I love Him and rejoice as I offer Him every one of my beautiful weeds.

 

In the dandelion I see a beautiful weed. I see the finest of flowers. What do you see?

, , , ,

The Dog Wash

The dogs desperately needed a bath but the groomer was booked three weeks out. Pippy and Molly would have gladly waited that long. They dread the groomer. Pippy shakes the whole way there but I could not endure three more weeks with two stinky schnoodles. My girls desperately needed a bath so it was on to plan B.

The upstairs bathtub. Although convenient, at home washing never gets the job done. While kneeling on the floor and bent over the porcelain surround I can’t scrub well enough to really eradicate the dirt. Then there is the problem of the water pressure when it comes time to rinse. The girls hate the faucet and panic when we get too close to its powerful stream. Pouring water from a pitcher is the only inefficient option.

On to plan C.

The Dog Wash. The girls were excited when I grabbed their leashes and opened the front door. They thought we were headed for a walk but when I went straight to the car Pippy’s face fell into a panic. This wasn’t a mission for a walk. This was a mission for a bath. I could see the anxiety written all over her furry face. She thought she was headed for the groomers.

For the next seven minutes on our way to the dog wash Pippy panicked as if her life were about to be over. I did my best to reassure her. I said, “You are not going to the groomer.” And added, “Or the vet.” But Pippy was relentless in her fearfulness. She refused to settle down.

Until we arrived at our dog wash destination.

The moment I opened the door and Pippy jumped out of the car with relief and joy. She could smell the air and it wasn’t the groomers. She could see the pavement and it wasn’t the parking lot she had dreaded. Pippy pranced with glee because I wasn’t about to leave her behind to be shampooed by a stranger. I was going into the dog wash with her and I would be staying the whole time.

Fifteen minutes later the dogs and I had completed our cleanliness mission and were back in the car headed home. Both dogs behaved beautifully in the bath tub and Pippy never panicked. All three of us enjoyed the ride home in peace.

 

Poor Pippy, her fearfulness isn’t her fault. As I watched her panting in the backseat I realized that she’s just behaving how she was taught from her Mom. Pippy learned how to be fearful from watching me.

The truth is, I am fearful and prone to panic. While riding on the road of life I shake and pant with all of the anxiety of an unsettled Schnoodle. Even though God is behind the wheel I become anxious and tremble as if something terrible were about to happen. Even though the Word of God reassures me that the destination ahead is going to be good and glorious, I hold onto my concerns. Even though the Lord commands me not to worry I refuse to release my fear.

Until we arrive at God’s destination.

When the door is opened and God’s plan is revealed I leap into the future with joy because the reality is never what I feared. My anxiety disappears and all shaking is settled because God is not dropping me off at the groomers. He is not leaving me behind. Every time He opens the door the glory of His presence is revealed. God isn’t going anywhere. He is staying right there with me.

There is nothing to fear and no reason to panic. God is not about to abandon you and me, His precious children, at the groomer. Christ is going with us into the dog wash. The restorative, redemptive hand of God will go with you into the tub. The Spirit of God will surround you in every cycle and see you  through until His work is done and you are clean!

Thank God the groomer was booked and the tub at home wouldn’t do. As it turns out I’m the one who needed the trip to the dog wash so God could cleanse my heart of panic and fear and restore peace as I ride in the backseat with Him.

, ,

…Yet

A heart to heart from the journal

I asked God to give me a sign and tell me what this is all about.

“What are you up to?” I asked.“God, can you give me a sign? Some reassurance that everything is going to be alright? I’m weary, but you already knew that. I need your strength to hold on. I’m asking Lord for you to come and rescue me in your Mighty way. Overcome my weakness with your strength. Defeat my enemy with the victory of Jesus Christ. I am sounding the trumpets, I expect and know I will see your face. Come quick God and reveal to me your way!”

I was hoping God would show me a glimpse of His plan or reveal a tiny sneak peek. A clap of thunder or chiming of bells would have been a nice touch to reassure me that God is still there and that He cares.

But when I asked God I got nothing. For months I heard not a peep. All I received was a still, small voice whispering ever so quietly. When I finally stopped to listen I could hear Him say, “I don’t want you to know anything yet.”

Yet…that word hung in the air and arose with glorious tones. Yet. There is a yet. God isn’t finished…yet.

I had feared it was all over. That is why I had prayed so desperately for a sign. My trust wasn’t standing on solid ground just yet. My faith was still holding out for sight.

And then I heard God speaking that glorious yet and my vision changed.

God does not want me to know what comes next. He just wants me to trust and believe that He has written me a glorious future and it will unfold page by page. All He asks is that I surrender in faith and rejoice in His story.

 

PS…Because He isn’t finished…yet.

, , ,

Frenemy on Facebook

I have six hundred and thirty-eight friends on Facebook and one frenemy named Satan.

I never intended to add the enemy of heaven and earth to my friend list. I don’t even recall receiving a friend request with his name on it. Yet, there he is, cluttering up my newsfeed with envy and dissatisfaction.

The enemy first slithered his way onto my social media while I was feeling weak and lonely. Before I knew it he was in nearly every post, hijacking updates of joy with his malice and discontent. My frenemy is so deceptive he has even invaded likes and shares. He even exerts his evil influence in smiley faces and pictures of furry pets. How dare he.

When my frenemy is online he fills the comments and likes with jealousy and discontentment. For far too long I have scrolled by the enemy’s posts and given him the evil pleasure of stealing my stillness and peace with his social media sabotage. I’ve clicked “unfollow” here and there, but I’ve never blocked him entirely.

Until today.

Today I am unfriending the enemy and blocking his influence. With the joy of the Risen Jesus Christ I am kicking Satan off of my social media and out of my soul. To simply “unfollow” isn’t enough. The enemy must be blocked entirely.

In order to remain united with my very best friend, Jesus, I cannot tolerate a single post from His arch enemy, the destroyer of eternal peace. The destructive influence of Satan must be forcibly removed and only the power of Christ’s Risen life can do it. Only God can effectively and entirely block the enemy from my heart, mind and soul.

 

The love of Christ cleanses my Facebook of the enemy and rids my feed of his hate. Transformed by the Savior’s redemptive mercy, my social media is made new in the presence of His amazing grace.

I still have six hundred and thirty-eight friends on Facebook and one best friend named Jesus Christ spreading abundant, everlasting joy all across my eternal feed.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:4-7

, ,

A letter to my Mom on Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

This Mother’s Day a store bought card just wouldn’t do. To be honest, I didn’t even look for one in the store because I knew that nothing written in a card could capture what you and I have been through in the past year (not to mention the past 28).

You, more than anyone, know how difficult this past year has been. Treating Lyme Disease has been a roller coaster ride crazier than anything I could have ever imagined. The journey has been insane since the very first dose of treatment and yet you’ve kept your cool. I don’t know how, because heaven knows I haven’t. Through it all you’ve remained steady and sure. You have never wavered in your belief that I will be healed and restored. All the while you have been the hands and feet of God in my life – literally – graciously comforting my calloused feet with essential oils and my burdened spirit with fervent prayer.

I’m not always the easiest person to love. In fact, sometimes I’m down right grouchy and cold, yet you keep loving me. When I am short and unappreciative, you give me grace. When I take out my frustration and anger on you, you forgive me. You love me unconditionally. You love me with the love of Christ.

I know this year you said, “Don’t write anything sappy.” So I won’t. I’ll just write what is true: You are an incredible Mom, my very best friend and you have taught me how to love and support someone “in sickness and in health.”

I know our relationship isn’t perfect. It has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything because by being your daughter I have been taught how to love. By how you care for me I have been showered with sacrificial love that is drawn from the very source of love, Jesus Christ.

On this Mother’s Day I  want to thank you most of all for your devotion to Christ. Thank you for coming alongside me in my battle and encouraging me with scripture and faith. Satan’s attacks have been real, fiercely trying and testing my faith, but you have surrounded me with prayer. Every day you put on the armor of God to defeat the enemy on my behalf.

God doesn’t make mistakes. He had a plan for me as your daughter before I was even born. He had a journey plotted out for you and I  before you knew if I would be a “Stephanie” or a “Steven” (or some other boy name). God knew what He was doing when He put you and I together. He knew I’d need a Mom who would be willing to fight for me and with me.

Mom, I know someday you are going to hear those glorious words, “Well done good and faithful servant” because you are good and faithful and you are a servant. You serve Him everyday by the way you care and love for me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:25-26

, ,

Hoarding: Buried Alive in Hope

The amount of clothing I own is nothing short of astonishing. The number of plastic containers in my possession containing said clothing is ludicrous.

The hoarding problem busting at the seams of my closet has been slowly developing for the past eight years. It all started with my first unintentional, dramatic weight loss. Within three months I was down thirty pounds and my pants would no longer stay up. I updated my wardrobe with smaller clothing and packed away the larger sizes trusting that they would be worn again when weight returned.

As the years have ticked by more weight has been lost and more clothing has been acquired. With each drop of pounds, bags of new clothes have appeared and more empty boxes have been filled. Now I have half a dozen containers full of clothes in pristine condition that are simply too big for me to wear yet I can’t bring myself to part with them because I still believe that one day I will have the weight I need to wear them.

Although I have lost weight I have not lost hope that God will heal me yet. My confidence in His restorative power is why I have been hoarding my old clothes for all of these years. Belief in restoration is why I haven’t parted with the sizes I can’t wear.

In my closet full of oversized clothing is a testimony to the big, confident hope I have that God restoring me completely – body, mind and soul. In my closet I am still holding onto the trust and believe that God is at work healing me. Even now the Great Physician is making me whole.

Dear friend, of this I am sure, God is the Almighty rebuilder and restorer who performs His most miraculous healing on the inside, in the broken and ailing human heart. With each internal restoration the Spirit of Christ reassures me that the Healer is most certainly at work and He isn’t finished yet.

 

“Your hands made me and fashioned me;
Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments.

May those who fear You see me and be glad,
Because I wait for Your word.”

Psalm 119:73-74

,

Immediate Obedience

It was 2:30 AM and Pippy was desperate for a bathroom break. This is not part of her usual routine. The last time Pippy begged to be let out in the middle of the night was seven years ago.

At the time Pippy was just a puppy and unable to hold her bladder. On those hot August nights I recall reluctantly pulling myself out of bed and sleepily shuffling towards the steps holding Pippy in my arms. Slowly but gingerly I would tiptoe down the wooden steps, careful not to slip with my restless schnoodle puppy in toe.

Once successfully past the treacherous treads and out the front door I plopped Pippy down in the grass and instruct her to do her business. With a bewildered look she would glance around the yard as if contemplating what to do next.

To help my puppy along in the decision making process I repeated a familiar training command. “Go pee, Pippy,” I would say with authority. Looking back at me with her head tilted to the side and a confused look in her puppy eyes, it’s as if Pippy would say, “I have no clue what you’re saying.”

Seven years later I shuffled down the steps in the middle of the night carrying my grown up “puppy.” To this day she refuses to walk down those treacherous treads. After successfully making it down the steps we exited through the front door and I softly set Pippy down on the front porch. As she walked into the yard I gently whispered, “Go pee, Pippy” and immediately, she obeyed on command.

A few seconds later Pippy completed her mission and dutifully returned to the porch. We carefully made our way back up the steps and climbed back into bed. Both Pippy and I quickly fell back to sleep and enjoyed the rest of our night in uninterrupted peace

 

During Pippy’s short nighttime waking she reminded me of an important lesson about obedience. When I am awoken and interrupted by restless nights and worldly trouble obedience to the voice of God will always restore me to His comfort and rest. When I hear the call of the Holy King and comply without hesitation He is faithful to carry me into His glorious presence of unending peace and rest.

 

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.

1 Peter 1:14-16

, , ,

Surprised by God’s Joy

As hot water pierced the open cuts on my legs I let out a boisterous laugh. That’s when I knew, “I’ve been surprised by God’s joy!”

The bombshell breakthrough took place in the shower, where the best breakthroughs tend to occur. I stepped into the tub completely oblivious of the terror to come. On my legs open cuts have been forming and, as I soon learned, they don’t enjoy hot water.
The second I stepped into the porcelain tub the rushing water transformed into a swarm of bees. The fresh cuts up and down my right ankle and foot screamed in the heat. Shocked by the sudden stinging, I yelped in pain, resembling the sound of an accidentally stepped upon dog. Then, resembling something like a Mexican jumping bean, I hopped around the shower for a few seconds uttering phrases such as, “Golly gee!” and “Hot diggidy!”
After some creative maneuvering, I was able to position my right leg on the side of the tub, out of direct line of the shower’s head. The only trouble was that in such an awkward position I could not step or twist, both of which are quite helpful when showering.
In the not so distant past, this circumstance would have likely reduced me to tears or at least frustration. But not this time. Rather than causing me to cry the strange shower scenario catapulted me into a fit of hardy laughter.
The joy of Jesus swooped in to my shower and delivered me on the wings of uproarious comic relief. The delight of Jesus’ presence was enough to fill my heart (and shower) with laughter and joy in spite of the stinging pain. Once my soul was lifted up in laughter the physical pain did not need to be removed in order for true joy to be experienced.

Only Christ has the power to deliver sufferers from any and every pain, both inside and out. At His resurrection, Jesus removed the eternal sting of suffering and defeated the doom of death. He rose to render the sorrow and sadness of pain completely powerless.
Jesus does not assure His followers a pain-free life but, united with His glorious resurrection, they will be most assuredly be surprised by God’s joy.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now,
you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8-9