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God’s purpose for pain? Prayer.

God always has a purpose for my pain and its always prayer.

Until I’m in need of relief from physical pain my dialogue with God is half-hearted at best. It often takes bodily suffering to transform my pathetic, weak prayer life into an ongoing, intimate conversation with the Lord on High. Time and time again God has allowed the stress of physical distress to enter my life in order that I would be compelled to passionately and fervently converse with Him in prayer.

Why is it that I wait for pain to propel me to prayer? Talking with God is as fundamental to my spiritual well-being as breathing is to my physical well-being. Yet when I am physically well I am prone to neglect my prayer life and allow it my conversation with God to become feeble and infrequent and, before I know it, I become spiritually unwell.

In his New Testament letter, James wrote to the twelve tribes that if any of them were afflicted they should pray. If they were merry they should sing psalms and songs of praise. (James 5:13) James was echoing the instruction of Paul who wrote to the Ephesians to “… pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Ephesians 6:18)

Both Paul and James knew that the secret to living united with Christ is consistently and constantly talking to God through prayer. When communication suffers, faith fails. When intimate conversation with God goes silent, strength in His Spirit falters.

God desires that His children remain relentless in their prayerful condition regardless of their physical condition. In sickness and in health, God wants us to engage in and enjoy loyal, constant, consistent conversation with Him. God yearns to communicate with us in all circumstances – on easy days and hard days; painful days or days of ease. God desires to talk with us and walk with us so He can strengthen and guide us along paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Pain has been the catalyst for many of my most heartfelt prayers but in order for my relationship with Christ to be healthy and fruitful, pain cannot be the only reason I pray. For the well-being of my faith, my prayer life cannot be pain dependent. Whether it be through tearful laments or tears of joy, I must continually to talk to God in all circumstances and on all occasions because God always wants to talk to me.

And He wants to talk to you, too.

Don’t wait for pain to pray. Speak to your Heavenly Father today. Right here. Right now.

And then get ready to listen because God is always eager to engage in a beautiful, fruitful, blessed, ENDLESS conversation with His beloved.

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Boils, Bubbles & Belief

I approached the mirror for the specific purpose of inspecting my nose (a relatively large sniffer to begin with) but not even I was prepared for the reality of my reflection. The moment my eyes caught a glimpse of my nose I recoiled, shocked by the face staring back at me.

The night before my nose inspection the outside of my right nostril had become tender and painful. Now it was morning and the pressure was even more intense. I felt the side of my nose and detected a large bump. Praying the protrusion was just a nasty pimple I hurried to the bathroom to take a closer look but my pimple hopes were dashed the moment I approached the mirror. What I witnessed in my reflection was worse – and bigger – than I’d imagined. It only took a second to diagnose that I had a gigantic, fire-red, inflamed boil growing on the side of my nose.

Confronted with the reality of my boil I immediately became discouraged. In the past few months many of my symptoms had been reducing – back pain, muscle spasms, visual disturbances, hot flashes. I had been flying high on revitalized health but now, when I looked at my nose, I couldn’t see a single physical gain. All I could see was a pussy, painful step backwards.

The boil was well on its way to defeating my spirit and hope for the future until I recalled my “bubble saga.”

The bubble that appeared on my left eyelid last December was an infectious cyst-like growth that disrupted my vision and held me hostage wearing glasses. The bubble remained on my eyelid for nearly half a year and grew to gargantuan, unsightly proportions before miraculously healing – praise God!

During my bubble saga the pussy protrusion often appeared as if it were about to burst but God never abandoned my eyelid. Although the bubble was tender and painful it never ruptured. Even when it grew so large I couldn’t open my eye fully, God never allowed that bubble to burst. He protected my vision and spared my eyelid so that, in His perfect time, it could heal by His perfect ways.

To this day I don’t know the science behind why my infection developed into a bubble on my eyelid but I do know why it healed. Because God intended for it to heal. Without medical intervention, surgery or prescriptions, God intended for the bubble to miraculously go away.

As I surveyed the boil on my nose discouragement and fear ceased at the memory of my bubble saga. Why should I worry about a boil when God has already proved He can sustain and heal my body? What power does an unsightly growth have over my hope and belief when I am in the hands of the Great Physician?

Because I believe God is able to do anything and know that nothing is impossible for Him, my boil cannot rob me of my peace or discourage me with the threat of defeat.

Because I am fully assured that God can perform any and every extraordinary miracle He so chooses I can look at any bubble, boil or infectious growth and continue to remain at rest.

Because God promises to always take care of me and has always been true to His word, I can be at peace regardless of my physical condition.

As I write this post my nose is still plagued by a boil that it is still causing me pain. For all I know this boil could stick around for six months just like its bubbly predecessor or longer if that be God’s will.

Although the future of my boil is still unknown the future of my hope and belief is secure because I know who is in control and who is working all things – boils and bubbles included – together for my good. The Lord God Almighty who upholds my life and oversees every fiber of my being has plans to make me boil-iful (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist) for my good and His glory.

God is good.

God is faithful.

And He isn’t finished yet.

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Peace, Purpose & Posting

For the past few months I haven’t been posting much. I’m still writing. Heaven knows I’m writing! But I can’t seem to complete anything. I type and type but nothing turns out quite right. Even when the seeds of an idea appear fully formed the conclusion alludes me. As a result I’ve amassed a prolific portfolio of unfinished devotionals and drafts too inferior to post and too elaborate to delete.

I’d like to blame my dilemma on a severe case of “writer’s block” but that wouldn’t be true. It all began with a “purpose block.”

Why am I writing? Who am I writing for? What am I writing about? These questions have been plaguing my pen and paralyzing my finger from hitting “publish.” While my body has been healing, my hand has been struggling to form complete thoughts. All I’ve written about for years is sickness and physical suffering and, without it, I don’t know how to write or what to write about. Illness has been my purpose for eight years but my body has started telling a different story.

Blocked by a confused purpose, I decided to do the only thing I could do. Pray. Earnestly seek God. Ask Him to show me His purpose for my life.

And He’s been answering.

With open doors and new opportunities God has been magnificently, miraculously and abundantly answering my prayers. His answering has been so remarkable that it caused a new kind of block. “Glory block:” the inability to write due to the blinding glory of God’s goodness.

But the most miraculous answer to prayer has come to a request I didn’t even think to make. In His infinite wisdom and love, God has given me more than what I asked for. He’s given me peace.

God has showered my hands and heart with peace, removing my anxious striving to post and publish. God has given me rest and reassurance, calming my fears with the comfort of knowing that I am complete in Him. God has reminded me that writing does not give meaning to my life. God gives meaning to my life. Whether or not I ever write another word, I am whole because I am His.

I do not need to answer the questions of “why, who and what.” God is in control of my writer’s life. If He chooses to give me words, I’ll write them. If He blesses me with “glory block” and keeps me from posting then I will peacefully sit back and enjoy the wonder of His presence.

I need not worry about what I will write or what will become of “Jesus take the pen.” God will take care of that. All He requires of me is that I keep seeking, praying and asking Jesus to take my life and fill it with His purpose.

“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

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Crashing into the Cross

Her foot was on the brake with the pedal engaged but the car wouldn’t stop. It just kept moving forward. Mom tried not to panic as she pumped the brakes but her frantic footing was futile. The brakes were completely shot and within seconds the car was face-to-face with the garage.

Thankfully Mom wasn’t hurt. The car traveled the length of the garage and would have crashed through the back wall had it not been for what the accumulation of stored stuff that stopped the out-of-control vehicle and wouldn’t let it go an inch further. Piled high along the far end of the garage was an assortment of garden equipment, kid’s riding toys, garbage cans and bicycles. The stuff saved Mom’s life by stopping the car from breaking through the back of the garage and careening down the hill behind it.

 

Mom’s brake-less car story is a picture of life without Christ, my own life without Christ.

 

Before I surrendered my life to Christ I was like Mom’s out-of-control car. I was driving through life without brakes. I didn’t do what I wanted to do or stop and obey the rules like I knew I should. I was lost in rebellion, completely out-of-control and headed straight for a crash.

Driving without brakes in a car always ends with impact and so it was with my life. After months of picking up speed I came face-to-face with the garage of my life. I didn’t even think to brace for impact, I was too ignorant and blind to foresee the consequences of my disobedience. Before I knew it I was crashing into the reality my sin, guilt and shame. I ran full-force into the disaster I was making of my life.

But thankfully I wasn’t hurt because my life ran into Christ’s cross. Behind all of my transgressions and wrongdoings Jesus was standing in the way of my ultimate destruction ready and willing to save me. When I crashed into His cross my life couldn’t go any further. Christ brought me to my knees and my out-of-control life to a full stop.

 

Apart from Christ we are all doomed for a deadly disaster, speeding down a hell-bound road without brakes and without hope in this world. But, praise be to God, Jesus is standing in victory, waiting to save and redeem us with His Cross. Only by the power of His resurrection and the grace of His salvation can our out-of-control lives be stopped and saved.

The moment you hit the door of rebellion, look to the cross because Christ is there, ready and willing to rescue you.

Surrendered before His throne, redeemed by His resurrection, your life will be saved upon impact so you can travel the rest of life’s road with the brakes of righteousness and the assurance of eternal salvation.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—

and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2:8-9

 

* Mom’s brake-less car story is circa 1995.

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Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Bloom where you’re planted” is one of my favorite sayings and a sentence I strive to live by. To bloom where you’re planted means to thrive and flourish in the life conditions God has placed you. Or, as Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians, to be “content whatever the circumstances.” (4:11)

While working on my blooming skills I’ve discovered that reciting the sentence is a whole lot easier than actually growing the blossoms. Thankfully, God is the faithful and patient Gardener who has not given up on tending to my flowers while teaching me how to grow more bountiful, beautiful blooms. Under the care of God’s cultivation I have learned that the following three principles are key to experiencing blooms right where you’re planted.

1.     Be content in the soil of your circumstances.

Different types of flowers flourish best in different soils. Some species need moist soil while others grow best in dry conditions. And so it is with people. We do not all thrive in the same circumstantial soil. One person is best planted in physical suffering while another person will flourish under the demands of a laborious job. One will thrive single while another will grow fuller and stronger as one of half of a pair. God knows what we need and He plants us in the right soil to produce the very best blooms.

To experience the blessing of a healthy, bountiful garden we must remain content in our soil. Transplanting to what we believe will be more favorable conditions could prove disastrous for our blooms. The best growing conditions will always be in the unique ground of God’s flawless choosing.

2.     Enjoy your ideal exposure.

Like soil, sun and shade conditions are not one-size-fits-all. Cacti thrive in the direct desert sun. In fact, they will die without the light. But Begonias prefer shade. Too much sun will cause them to shrivel up and die.

You and I function much the same. One person will flourish in the heat while another will need the cool of the shade. To wish we had a different exposure to the world and its elements won’t aid in our growth. Seeking the wrong exposure could actually prove fatal.

It is always best to enjoy the exposure God has determined is just right for your ideal growth. If He leaves you in the quiet, enjoy the silence. If He surrounds you with activity, embrace the commotion. God knows the exposure that will serve you best and bring the most glory to His great name.

3.     Be satisfied with your saturation.

Back to the cacti we go for a perfect picture of the dangers of over watering. If cacti have too much water they won’t survive. Cacti were created to stand strong in climates with little rainfall.

Like wise, God purposefully plants people in grounds that are destined to experience drought. You and I may look up to the sky and wonder when God will send down blessings like rainfall but if we are a flower created to flourish in a dry and barren land we need not fear the lack of water. God never withholds what we need. If He does not deem it best to send down blessings in showers He will cultivate His goodness from the root up.

God knows how best to water the soil of the soul. Resist the urge to grab the hose. Be satisfied with your saturation and leave the soaking up to Him.

 

There is one more secret to blooming right where you’re planted and it holds the other three principles together: trust.

“Trust the Lord your God with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

When we trust God, the master Gardener, to cultivate our garden and tend to our flowers He never disappoints. When we leave it up to Him, He always makes us bloom beautifully right where He plants us.

You need not have a green thumb to bloom where you’re planted. All you need is to know the Master Gardener and entrust the garden of your life to His care.

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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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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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Pain is Beauty

When I was ten years old I wanted to get my ears pierced. All of my friends were getting their ears pierced – if they didn’t have them already – and I desperately wanted to join the bejeweled earlobe crowd.

Despite a deep and, at times, irrational fear of needles, I was willing to brave the Piercing Pagoda chair if it meant I could have pierced ears. I actually wanted to endure the pain so I could wear dazzling diamonds on my ears. Even as a young girl I believed that pain is beauty.

But, to my great disappointment, Dad didn’t support my ear piercing plans.

”Pierced ears are preposterous,” He said. “Why would you want to intentionally stab yourself?”

I told Dad I wanted to pierce my ears so they would look beautiful. “Imagine the pretty earrings I will be able to wear once my ears are pierced,” I told him. “I’ll need my ears pierced for prom!”

I used every excuse (and puppy dog face) in the book but Dad didn’t budge. He wasn’t buying my sales pitch and, in the end, I never did get my ears pierced.

Nearly two decades have passed since I begged to have pain inflicted on my delicate ear lobes and to this day I have yet to get them pierced. As it turns out, Dad was right. I didn’t need pierced ears to have beautiful lobes. Even on prom night, I didn’t need diamond studs to shine.

But I was right, too – a least in part  – because pain truly is beauty. To be made beautiful in the sight of God is painful.

The way of Christ is a way of pain and suffering. The sting that afflicts the followers of Jesus often hurts worse than a needle through the delicate skin of an ear lobe but the results are more dazzling than diamonds.

God allows the piercing of trials and stabbing of suffering in order that His beloved children become adorned with the righteousness and perseverance of Jesus. Our Heavenly Father does not spare us the needle or the sting. He does not keep us from the experience of pain. Instead He perfects us in pain and makes us beautiful by the power of the cross.

It is through the piercing of affliction that God transforms us into dazzling diamonds by the indwelling Spirit of Jesus Christ.

 

“But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

1 Peter 4:13

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Turtle Rescue {because God cares about reptiles too}

Why did the turtle cross the road?

To get rescued before he made it to the other side.

In the past two weeks I’ve witnessed two extraordinary turtle rescues and heard of a third.

The first turtle in distress was standing stock still in the middle of a busy two lane road. A daring member of the military stopped his car in the midst of the traffic, hopped out and alerted oncoming cars to halt. Then, in full Navy uniform, he kindly guided the confused turtle off the pavement, over the shoulder and into the abutting woods where he slipped into the protection of a pond.

Turtle rescue two occurred in the same location, minus the military uniform. This time the citizen rescuer came prepared with experience. He had saved turtles in that precise location a time or two before and knew just how to guide the turtle off of the street and back into wooded safety. With the help of the reptile rescuer it only took a moment for the lost turtle to find his way back to the pond again.

Turtle rescue three took place on a two-lane street where there was no pond in sight. This time an SUV stopped in the middle of the road and two men hopped out of the back seat. From afar I could see one of the men carefully lift something large and round from the middle of the road. Sure enough, it was yet another turtle rescued from a devastating, crushing fate.

After each turtle rescue I drive away in awe. The fact that the turtles survive on the street amazes me. How the turtles end up in the middle of the road without being crushed by a passing car is a miracle in and of itself.

Next is the miracle of being spotted by drivers passing by. The turtles could easily be missed. The tortoise’s shell blends in so well to the dark pavement. If not missed entirely, the turtles could easily be mistaken for a stray piece of trash or left over rubber from a tire. But the turtles were not missed. They were spotted, recognized and saved by heroic men who willingly stopped and saved the stranded turtles. They risked their own safety and stepped into harms way to protect the turtles. They delayed their own journeys to ensure that the turtles in these stories had a happy ending to theirs.

In the turtle rescues I see the wonder of my own salvation and am struck by the awe and wonder of my Hero, my Savior, my Rescuer, Jesus Christ.

 

From up on high God saw me in distress. I had wandered away from safety, standing bewildered and in harms away. I could have so easily been crushed at any moment. I was completely oblivious to the dangers whizzing all around me. I was trapped in sin, blending in so well with the rest of the world and yet God spotted me. While I was a lost sinner God recognized me as one of His own and sent His Son to rescue me. By the power of the cross, Jesus defeated death and guided me into the glory of His eternal safety.

I am in awe of Jesus, my rescuer.

 

So why do the turtles cross the road?

So God can rescue them.

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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.