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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.

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…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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Let’s Run

“Turn left and head south on Milfair Road”
The navigational system stated its directions clearly but I wasn’t listening. I took an immediate right and headed east instead. I searched for a way to make my wrong into a right but there were no connecting streets and I couldn’t turn around. I was stuck taking the long route.
“Turn right in six miles,” the re-calibrated navigational voice said. The ETA added ten minutes and the total travel distance increased too but I before I had a moment to consider the lost time a vision of hope appeared through the glass of the car’s windshield.   Running on the right side of the road I didn’t’ intend to be taking I happened upon my runner friend chugging along.
My “runner friend” is an elderly gentleman who conducts his exercise on busy streets in town. His gait is stiff and every step labored yet he continues to move ahead. Rain, sleet and snow cannot deter him. He refuses to give up. He keeps running, defeating obstacles both inside and out. In all circumstances, my friend is determined to lace up his sneakers and run.

The wrong turn I made behind the wheel of my car added thirteen minutes and three miles to the total trip but infinitely more hope was added to my spiritual tank.
The vision of the runner pushing through his difficulty and pain inspired me claim the final victory in all circumstances.
And that’s just what I did.
Fueled by Christ’s overcoming Spirit and eternal hope, I claimed the victory over disease and defeat, laced up my sneakers and ran.

Turns out taking the long way was the perfect way for God to get me running again.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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The Final Chapter

For eight years I have been praying, asking God to write the final chapter of my sickness saga. Earnestly, I have asked God to give me His words to pen miraculous, inspiring closing lines to this Lyme story. Kindly, I have requested that He tie up this crazy journey with a beautiful restoration bow to bring Him glory.
Despite praying, begging and pleading with God to write those precious words, that isn’t where He has taken my life’s story. The ink He pours into my pen continues to be that of pain. Every time He opens a new page it reveals another scene of suffering.
I must be honest, while waiting for healing I’ve become weary. When my tired hand have become too heavy I’ve struggled to pick up my pen and questioned if God has a happy ending planned for me at all. As I’ve been witness to the healing testimonies of others I’ve even asked God, “When will I get my own healing story to share?”
And the sweet, gentle Spirit of my Heavenly Father keeps responding, “Dear Daughter, I’ve already written your story. Don’t you see it? The healing is in your heart.”

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 3:16

For eight years God has faithfully been penning His healing story in my heart. As often as I surrender my life before His cross and my hand before His blank page, He breathes words of restoration into my empty pen and pours out a story of His glory to tell.
By the blood of God’s Son, Heaven’s perfect Lamb, my heart has been healed. The miraculous, life-changing, transformative power of Jesus Christ has healed me and now I am new.
That is always the very best healing story.

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Icy Conditions

My digits are frigid.
This isn’t new news. All ten of my fingers have been trapped in layers of invisible ice for the past eight years. Freezing hands is a chilly side effect of chronic Lyme disease and to be expected at my low weight.
Despite many attempts to bring warmth to my cold fingers they remain stubbornly icy and stiff. In their deepest freeze my whole hand turns blue with translucent white fingers and yellow tips. Even when the temperatures outside are warm and the sun is shining my hands cannot escape their bone chilling condition. My fingers simply refuse to thaw.
The inescapable predicament of my fingers’ frozen condition is one I am powerless to change. Until my health is restored and the Lyme battle won, I am trapped in a body with terribly cold hands.
But thank God I am not trapped in a body with a bitter, cold heart.

At the foot of the cross the deep freeze of my heart is broken and warmth is restored to my soul. Because Jesus is alive my heart is not doomed to a fate of inescapable, impenetrable ice. The moment I seek the Spirit of God He is faithful to thaw me by the radiant warmth of His love and grace.
The Son of God’s perfect love is the only power on earth that can break through the thickest layers of my stone cold heart and restore Heaven’s everlasting heat.

In the presence the Lord of Life and Love my frigid heart is made new and kept eternally warm.

“If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love; whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him. In this way, love has been perfected among us, so that we may have confidence on the day of judgment; for in this world we are just like Him.” 
1 John 4:15-17