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A Look Back 3 Years Post Stem Cells

Three years ago I underwent a stem cell procedure to treat what I believed was a case of Multiple Sclerosis.

The treatment utilized cells extracted from my body’s fat. In my case, my legs were the only part of my body with any extra tissue left to extract from. After the cells were pulled from my body they underwent an activation process. Once turned on, they were pumped back into my body through an IV and injected into my nasal cavity.

Four hours after it began, the procedure was over and I was full of activated powerhouse stem cells.

 

Since that day I have been asked (and have asked myself), “What did that procedure do for you?”

After the stem cells were injected into the immediate results were remarkable. Symptoms that had been unshakable for years completely disappeared. My energy was back. Brain fog lifted. Muscle spasms abated entirely. For the first three days I felt like a new woman and thought, “I’m cured!”

Then I returned home.

And so did my symptoms.

One by one the debilitating ailments came back. Pain. Muscle spasms. Fatigue. Hot flashes. Brain fog. Optic neuropathy. Slowly all of the symptoms crept back into my body….except one.

My claw foot.

Prior to the stem cell treatment my foot had gone into a perpetual claw. My toes were curled over and completely stiff. To release the tension I had to manually straighten them back out again but that was only a temporary fix. In no time at all the claw foot would return.

The condition of my foot made walking difficult and painful. Until my foot went into a claw I didn’t realize how important the toes are for balance and stability. Without all four corners of my foot engaged I fell more easily, tripped with absolutely nothing in my way and had constant discomfort in every pair of shoes.

My claw foot was a catalyst for pursuing stem cell therapy. In fact, before I underwent the procedure, I said, “If I could only have my foot back, this treatment would be worth it!”

Well, I got my foot back.

The morning after the procedure I awoke to a claw-less foot. There was absolutely no gripping in my toes or pain in my foot. The stem cell procedure freed my foot from the grips of the claw and, to this day, it has yet to return.

 

The freedom in my foot following stem cells was immediate but the most amazing freedom I experienced as a result of the procedure didn’t become evident until much later. It took over a year before I began to see the most miraculous outcome of the treatment: freedom from the claw gripping my heart.

Until I had stem cells I was fixated on being healed – and fast. That’s why I pursued stem cells in the first place. I wanted a quick fix to my problems. I didn’t want to have to wait. I wanted it done in four hours – or less. In my mind, the wait had gone on long enough and didn’t want to have to practice any more patience. There was a claw in my heart gripping immediate healing and it was refusing to release.

But stem cells freed me from the claw in my heart.

When the stem cells didn’t provide the cure I’d hoped for, my hope in immediate physical healing died. It was as if I had put all of my healing eggs in the stem cell basket and when I returned home I realized the basket had a whole in it. Complete healing hadn’t made it home and off the plane. I was still stuck sick.

Although I had my foot back I lost temporary sight of that miracle when the rest of my symptoms returned. I had said having a free foot was enough of a reason to get the procedure but the reality was my foot wasn’t enough. No part of my physical body could have ever been enough because the real trouble was still the claw in my heart.

A year post stem cells the true healing came. That’s when I finally accepted that God wasn’t going to use a quick fix to make me well. Stem cells showed me that what I needed wasn’t a procedure. I needed patience. I didn’t need powerhouse cells. I needed powerhouse contentedness in all circumstances.

Stem cells opened my eyes to the foolish fixation I had on the quick fix and revealed that my hopes had become dependent on physical healing instead of on God alone. When the claw finally unclenched freedom took hold. In the presence of God I am free to enjoy peace and rest, regardless of circumstances or physical condition.

 

 

So, what did that procedure do for you? Simple. It freed me from my claw.

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Choose to Smile

“Geez, you’re sure out of breath!”

She was right. I was winded and red faced. My heart was racing, palms were sweaty and I felt like I’d just run a road race.

But this wasn’t a marathon or even a treadmill at the gym. It was the pick-up counter at my local coffee shop.

I paused, unsure of how to respond to the prodding stares coming from the baristas on the other side of the counter. Two women were staring at me, both nodding in agreement, recognizing that I was obviously, and oddly, breathless. The first barista was laughing as the second piped up. “Yea. She’s right! And your face is red, too.” she said with a chuckle.

At that moment I knew I had three options to choice from when it came to how I would respond.

Option A: Cry.

Tears used to be my go-to response whenever I was confronted by unkind, at times rude, commentary regarding my physical condition. If I didn’t cry on the spot I cried later in the bathroom. If I didn’t breakdown right then and there it was because I was holding back the tears with a lump in my throat.

Thankfully, I decided against Option A.

Option B: Educate.

At times this has been my best option when an ill-informed individual has made a statement that, had they known about my sickness, they would not have made. To educate the baristas I could have told them that my out of breath, winded condition was on account of my latest Lyme detox. For the sake of informing, I could have told them that since beginning my latest round of treatments these hot flashes had been striking me multiple times a day.

But it wasn’t the time nor place to enter into a discussion about the details of my disease and so I decided against option B.

Option C: Smile and laugh.

To smile, laugh and respond with grace is always the best option. Even if another word is never spoken, a smile speaks volumes. A smile and a little chuckle signals that life is short and it is silly to take simple comments too seriously. A smile extends grace to those who don’t know the background behind my breathlessness or cause of my condition. A smile says, “You don’t know why I’m out of breath and that’s okay.”

I choice option C.

 

There was a day not so long ago that I would have chosen option A and in some cases I still do choose option B but, in all cases, it is always best to practice option C. Smile. Laugh. Give grace.

Not every person I encounter will know or has to know about my sickness. Every barista that hands me a coffee cup doesn’t need to be enlightened about Lyme and the trials and tribulations of detox. God knows the ups and downs. God knows the cause of my breathlessness and the gory details of my detox and that’s enough.

God knows and loves me just as I am, sickness and all. God sees the fight underway for my life and He is cheering me on. The world doesn’t need to see it or even know that I’m in the fight for my life because the Creator and Sustainer of my body is fully aware of my every battle.

God is fighting for me, with me and through me so I can smile and say, “Ha! You’re right. Maybe I just drank my coffee to fast!”

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Talking to the Birds

In the neighborhood I call home the houses are situated on quarter acre sized lots, only a few hundred feet apart. The homes are so close that, if you look just right, you can see in your neighbor’s window. Not that I’m peeking. It’s just a fact of residential suburban life.

In the summer months when the windows are open and my neighbors are out in full force I often hear their hearty laughter and boisterous conversation. In the comfort of my own home I’ve even listened to their rocking music. When they crank up the volume I can hear every word.

Living in close proximity to neighbors means you quickly become familiar with their habits, routines and preferences. You come to know, for example, what genre of music they enjoy and what time they leave for work. Or, as is the case with my newest next-door neighbor, you come to discover that they have a deep love and appreciation for birds.

To be honest, I haven’t officially met my new next-door neighbor. I’ve seen her car but couldn’t pick out her face in a grocery store line. But, even in spite of her anonymity, I am confident that my new neighbor love birds because she regularly talks and listens to them from her back deck.

Yes, you read that right. My new neighbors talk to birds. From inside my house I’ve heard her lively discussions with the feathered fowl in nearby trees. During their chats, my neighbor makes various bird-calls and practices a plethora of pitches. She even changes the tone and rhythm of her dialogue in response to her feathered friends.

The bird conversation begins with my neighbor making a few bird sounds of her own then pausing to listen as the birds respond. This back-and-forth dialogue goes on for quite some time, easily half an hour or so. Neither bird caller nor bird ever seems to tire of the discussion. From the energy in their voices there is no question that both neighbor and birds thoroughly enjoy their conversations.

When I first heard this chatter between my neighbor and the birds I’ll admit I thought it was a bit odd. Never before had I heard an individual have such a lengthy and enthusiastic conversation with birds. But the more I listened to the exchange the more beautiful it became. The back and forth soon became magical music to my ears.

 

The beautiful conversations taking place between my neighbor and the birds has taught me an important lesson: When you love someone – or some birds – you change your tune to speak their language.

Scripture says that my love for God is made manifest in my life when I speak His language and call out in His pitch of love and grace. When I turn to Him in prayer and seek His presence to not only speak but, more importantly, listen to His voice, Christ indwells my soul. When I surrender my selfish tune and earnestly endeavor to embody God’s calls the very Spirit of Christ transforms the song on my lips.

Every day of my life I am to be practicing God calls and engaging in the most magical, musical conversation man can ever experience: A holy and life changing conversation with God.

 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Colossians 3:1

 

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Free at Last

I was balancing atop a paddle board, floating down an ocean creek, when the sweet relief of freedom washed over me.

After slipping underneath a footbridge I was welcomed into a grassy paradise full of Blue Heron, Osprey and Egrets. Nature was at its finest and for a few minutes I simply sat down, closed my eyes and enjoyed the sounds of the stillness. Guided by the water’s gentle current, I floated peacefully beneath the bright sun, basking in the goodness of God’s creation.

Four years ago this scene wasn’t possible for me to experience. Standing upright on a paddle boarding in southern summer heat was an impossible dream. In my mind I imagined what it would be like to experience nature while floating atop calm waves and gliding down gentle waters but my body simply wouldn’t allow it. The muscles in my left leg and arm were held taut like rubber bands that refused to relax. They tugged and pulled relentlessly, especially in the heat. For years, the excruciating pain and debilitating spasticity controlled my activities and held hostage my dreams of outdoor adventures.

But a miracle has happened. The impossible has been made possible. My dream of freedom has at last become my reality!

My body has been liberated from its spasticity. The rubber bands in my muscles have been released. Healing has loosened the inner rubber bands that bound me. I am no longer held taut by disease. Pulling and tugging in the heat no longer controls me. I have been set free indeed!

As I glided in the open ocean waters, celebrating the healing that has restored my physical freedom, I was awe-struck by an even greater miracle than my body’s liberation.

Spiritual freedom and liberation from sin.  

The most incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping miracle I have ever and will ever experience is being set free by the blood of Jesus Christ. On the cross of Calvary my Savior severed my bands of sin. The debilitating, deadly pain that had me trapped in an eternal grave was defeated when Jesus rose again. Sin no longer has mastery over me. Shame no longer has control. Because I have been liberated with Christ’s resurrected, victorious life I am eternally free indeed.

Basking in the brilliance of God’s creation I was reminded that the glory of freedom is always at its finest in the presence of the Christ’s Holy Spirit while gliding atop His waves of everlasting grace and perfect peace.

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When Life Gives You Limes

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

This is fantastic advice.

Who doesn’t love lemonade? Even those of us who don’t consume sugar love the idea of lemonade because squeezed lemons create summer’s quintessential beverage. Lemonade is beloved by children and adults alike. Lemonade stands wouldn’t exist without lemons, nor would Arnold Palmer’s famous drink. No one would argue lemons have purpose and, if received in abundance, can be made it a widely appreciated, even profitable, beverage.

But what if life gives you limes?

Limes are the black sheep of the citrus beverage family. Simply Limeade simply isn’t a best seller. Simply Lemonade and Simply Orange get all of the glory.

And what about all of those “limeade” stands? I’ve never seen one. Have you? And lets not even bring Arnold Palmer into it. As far as I can tell he hasn’t welcomed limes into his beverage lineup.

So, if life gives you limes what do you do? Do you allow your limes to go waste, disappointed that you weren’t the receiver of lemons? Do you leave your limes on the dining room table and toss them when they’ve shriveled up and grown mold? Or do you squeeze a few slices into a cool glass of water and lament that the limes never accomplished more?

No. No. And no.

I am here to tell you that your limes do not need to go waste (nor do they require a vodka and tonic to be worth while.) Your limes are not without purpose. They are a citrus fruit with great potential because limes can be transformed into a delicious treat.

Pie.

When life gives you limes you should make Key Lime Pie.

With a jar of condensed milk, a few egg yolks and, you guessed it, limes, a delicious treat is born. It takes a bit of work (and refrigeration) to create Florida’s most famous dessert but, once set, it is beloved by all. Even those of us who don’t eat sugar can appreciate the beauty and enticing scent of a Key Lime Pie.

Once whipped, the key lime filling is poured into a golden crust and topped with meringue. In restaurants they plate the decadent dessert with a thin slice of lime as a nod to the citrus fruit’s integral role in the pie’s production.

 

It seems that everyone wants what they don’t have. Curly haired women want straight hair. Straight haired women want curly hair. It goes back to the grass always being greener on the other side. And the same is true of fruit.

Lime recipients want lemons and the people who got lemons want oranges. And, chances are, those who received the oranges are wishing they had a whole bunch of lemons.

It’s easy to see the potential in another variety of fruit and consider it be superior to your own. But when we start coveting the lemons we end up missing the blessing in the limes. When we covet someone else’s citrus we miss the potential pie that could be created with our own.

God doesn’t give everyone the same fruit. He doesn’t choose to fill everyone’s lives with lemons. Sometimes He blesses with an abundance of limes (or Lymes) instead. One variety of God’s fruit is not greater than another because He hasn’t created any pointless produce. Every fruit God creates has potential to be transformed into a tantalizing treat that will entice the thirsty and hungry to come and feast on His goodness and grace.

Whatever fruit God gives you take it and squeeze the life out of it for His glory!

Then watch as God uses that fruit to produce an abundance of sweet aid that will nourish others and bring eternal praise and glory to Jesus Christ, His Son.

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Squirrelly Behavior

Let’s talk about squirrels.

I love squirrels. They are a joy to watch as they scurry up trees and chase each other across branches. With their bushy tails and furry coats, squirrels appear so soft cuddly and cute.

But don’t be deceived by their sweet and friendly exterior. Squirrels can be dangerous, even capable of causing deadly disasters.

Squirrels are inherently erratic and their squirrelly behavior is well known for causing distracted driving. One moment the road way is clear and the next a crazed woodland creature is leaping from the shoulder right in front of oncoming traffic, leaving drivers little to no time to react. Squirrels are notorious for this behavior. They run across roads and pause in the middle of busy streets with absolutely no regard for traffic patterns or oncoming cars.

While distracted by squirrelly behavior drivers often disregard road rules and act on instinct. Often time’s well-intentioned, nature-loving drivers will slam on their brakes or swerve into oncoming traffic in an attempt to spare the fluffy rodent’s life. Although the animal might escape the scene unscathed, the driver is not always as fortunate. Squirrels on the road have been known to cause serious accidents and have even been to blame for fatal crashes involving pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists.

As much as I love squirrels, I cannot deny that they are a deadly distraction to drivers. Squirrels are not just harmless woodland creatures; they are enemies on the road.

 

Drivers should be on their guard against squirrels – and not just those with bushy tails and furry coats. Drivers on the road of life must be on their guard against the enemy’s squirrels.

The enemy sends squirrels running into our lives disgusted in “harmless” exteriors. He is famous for sending seemingly cute and cuddly “squirrels” that scurry in front of our tires to distract us from traveling safely on Christ’s road of righteousness. Health, marriage, money, purpose, careers, and “fun” can all become distractions when they come darting out of their natural habitat. When they run in front of our unity with Christ they cause us to pull our attention and hearts away from the straight and narrow road of God.

Distracted by the squirrels of life, God’s rules for safe driving are often disregarded. Sinful and destructive moves are often made while our eyes are on the squirrels, resulting in a deadly crash of wills. Brakes are slammed and wheels swerve, sending us into a guardrail, pothole… or worse.

Remaining steadfastly fixated on Jesus is the only one way to avoid the dangers of driving distracted by the squirrels of life. Keeping our eyes on the way, true and life of Christ is the only sure way to travel safely. The enemy will still try to hinder our travel but with when we stay faithful to the Lord we will not be distracted, deceived or destroyed.

In the midst of the world’s squirrelly distractions, keep your eyes on the Savior. Under His care and protection you will be kept safe as you maneuver the roads that lead home to Heaven’s gates.

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Like Cures Like

For fifteen months I have been undergoing homeopathic treatments to cure chronic neurological Lyme disease. While sharing my journey with others and rejoicing in the healing I’ve experienced thus far I’m often asked, “What is homeopathy?”

“Good question,” is my first response.

Until I became sick and began searching for answers to my own decade long health saga I knew nothing about homeopathy. Explaining this ancient medicine was like speaking a foreign language. Actually, it is speaking a different language – the Greek language.

The American Institute of Homeopathy explains homeopathic medicine this way:

Homeopathy, or Homeopathic Medicine, is the practice of medicine that embraces a holistic, natural approach to the treatment of the sick.  Homeopathy is holistic because it treats the person as a whole, rather than focusing on a diseased part or a labeled sickness.  Homeopathy is natural because its remedies are produced according to the U.S. FDA-recognized Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States from natural sources, whether vegetable, mineral, or animal in nature.

The word Homeopathy, which comes from the Greek, through Latin into English, literally means “like disease”.  This means that the medicine given is like the disease that the person is expressing, in his totality, not like a specific disease category or medical diagnosis. 

If you just blinked and thought to yourself, “Come again?” then welcome to my world.

Truth be told, I don’t understand homeopathy. The principle of “like cures like” baffles me. Administering natural substances that cause disease as a method to cure disease is downright perplexing. In my feeble mind I simply cannot logically comprehend how homeopathy works and yet I believe wholeheartedly that this form of medicine is the one true way to be healed from chronic, incurable disease.

The reason I believe so completely in homeopathy is because I believe that Jesus Christ is the one true way to eternal healing of the soul.

Long before I ever became sick, I trusted and believed in “like curing like” when I surrendered my life at the foot of the cross.  The moment I trusted in Christ I placed my belief in a method of healing that I do not understand. The Son of God dying on the cross to save me baffled me. The love of my Savior has always been beyond my ability to comprehend.

Jesus answered and said to him,

“What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.”

John 13:7

God sent His one and only Son to become a man and die as a man. Jesus, the perfect, spotless Lamb, bleed as a sinner to save sinners. He conquered the grave and rose to new life to rescue the hell bound and heal the heart for eternity.

Jesus Christ is homeopathy for the soul.

If you just blinked and thought to yourself, “Come again?” then welcome to God’s world.

Jesus knew that even His followers would be baffled by God’s plan of salvation that’s why He warned them in advance that the way to healing would be beyond their understanding. Before He went to the cross He urged them to place their faith in Him and believe that He alone is the cure for eternal sickness and disease.

At the foot of Christ’s cross the baffling principles of homeopathy finally make perfect sense.

Like truly does cure like. I don’t need to understand it by logic because I know it by faith in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

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Pieces of the Puzzle

Lyme Disease is a jigsaw puzzle and symptoms are its pieces. When put together the interlocking aliments and abnormalities should create a complete picture that points the way to true healing. But putting this illness puzzle together isn’t as simple as a typical jigsaw because this puzzle doesn’t come in a box.

My Lyme disease puzzle is full of symptomatic pieces but has no guide, no box with an image on the cover, to show me how they fit together. The absence of a completed picture of healing has caused me great frustration and angst. I keep trying to force the pieces together but it seems hopeless. The puzzle is refusing to come together just right. I am working in the dark and praying for the light.

Stuck with stray pieces and a puzzle that seems impossible to put together I’ve begged God to reveal the final picture of how my healing ends. “Show me how to put my healing together.” I’ve prayed. “Just show me the completed picture and then I’ll know how to regain my health!”

But God hasn’t answered my prayers with a picture or a box. He’s answered them differently. He’s answered them perfectly.

God has answered my pleas and prayers by increasing my faith, not my sight.

God has revealed to me that I don’t need an image on a box. I don’t need a clear picture of how healing comes together in the end. All I need is to know Christ. All I need is to rest in the assurance that I am a child of the one true God who created my puzzle and holds my healing in His Almighty Hands.

I still don’t know how or if every piece of my body’s illness puzzle will come together. Only God can see that image. But this I know with absolute assurance: I am being guided into a complete and glorious picture of eternal healing as I follow Christ. As I place each piece of my life down in faith, according to God’s will and perfect plan, the final picture is going to turn out beautifully. In the end, my puzzle is going to turn out just right.