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Nothing But the Truth

It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a pen (or put my fingers on a computer’s keyboard) to write about life with a chronic illness. But my silence has not been on account of absence. My silence has been on account of fear.

Since moving to Nashville, I’ve shied away from typing about, talking about or testifying to the reality of my disease out of fear that it will define me and this new season of my life. The last thing I wanted when I made this move was to have sickness follow me. Illness had been my shadow for long enough and I wanted a fresh start with a new identity that didn’t include a devastating disease and debilitating ailments.

So, I tried to hide from the reality of my present suffering. I took the tree falling in a forest approach, reasoning that if I didn’t acknowledge my health struggles, maybe they would cease to exist. I did everything in my power to make myself and others believe that my sick days were dead and buried, going so far as to write my disease’s obituary and celebrated its defeat. In my desperation to turn the page and begin a new chapter, I disallowed myself from giving voice to persistent pain and lingering physical dysfunction that plague my daily life, arguing that no one needed to know about the storm brewing on the other side of my smile.

I thought that by rejecting my reality, I could reinvent my identity but, instead, I wound up removing myself from the peace and confidence of God. I began living in a state of denial which, as I came to learn, is like being buried alive. Denial is like trying to have a funeral for that which isn’t actually dead.

From inside my body’s lively grave, I’ve heard symptoms whispering in my ear with a troubling voice that can’t be ignored or outrun. “You’re living a lie,” the voice says, “you’re withholding the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about your life. You’re trying to write a new reality – one that God hasn’t given you yet.”  

By trying to keep my circumstances a secret, I slipped into the destructive territory known as “the double life.” Broken on the inside but “pretty much fixed” to the outside world; revealing my struggles only to those closest to me while telling the masses “I’m doing well.” 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in wearing a smile and having an upbeat attitude but those qualities aren’t meant to mask the truth under a cloak of denial. A smile and positive outlook can’t be the façade for trying circumstances. If that’s the foundation for a cheerful disposition, then it isn’t truly genuine. A sincerely joyful countenance isn’t just a face to hide hard circumstances; it is a spirit of faith in the midst of hard circumstances.  

But the negative implications of denial don’t end there. Living with denial is a double-sided coin with destructive ramifications on both heads and tails. If heads is the double-life disunity between the public and private persona, tails is the disconnection between God’s glory and our story.   

Throughout the many years when I wasn’t living in a state of denial, I watched God use painful ailments and disquieting symptoms to mend and shape my heart. Using disease as a sculpting tool, He carved out a purer, more complete faith in Jesus Christ. I wrote about that process regularly and rejoiced in it even when my body was falling apart.

But during the last year I decided that my time of being chiseled by disease was up. In my mind, I was past due for a new storyline and so I told God I wanted a new challenge. I no longer wanted to “bloom” in the garden of Lyme disease in which I was planted. I didn’t want to spend any more time on the potter’s wheel of pain and physical suffering. So, I determined to bury my old trials – even if it meant I was burying them alive. Little did I know I was burying the peace of Christ and joy of His Spirit along with it.

This decision, even if subconscious, was an act of rebellion. By refusing to live in my God-given reality, I cut myself off from letting God’s glory shine through my story. Pretending that my circumstance didn’t exist was essentially like telling my Maker and Savior that His way wasn’t right, good and perfect. While trying to bury that which God hadn’t put in the grave just yet, I became enslaved to my secret instead of empowered to honor Jesus with the truth.
 
The depression of living a double, disconnected life has taught me that it is simply impossible to deny my circumstances and, at the same time, give glory to the Author of them. I cannot bloom when I reject where I’m planted. I cannot live in a state of denial and expect to escape spiritual, emotional or physical defeat. In order for there to be harmony in my heart, fruit in my spirit and healing in my body, I must joyfully accept where God has me and embrace my weakness so that it can become a looking glass for others to see the overcoming strength of Jesus.

This is why I have decided to return to the grave of my disease and dig it back up again. I’m taking a shovel to the ground of my sickness and asking God to revive my spirit as I face the reality of where I am in His perfectly timed healing process. I’m uncovering my Lyme without fear of being defined by it, knowing that my identity is not determined by my physical condition. Because I am a daughter of the most-High King, who I am is rooted in the spirit of the Risen Christ who conquered the grave and defeated death so that I can victoriously rejoice in the midst of suffering, not just praise His holy name in the absence of it.

Even if I go to my grave with disease still coursing through my veins, I will praise God by rejoicing in the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Because this is God’s story and it is all for His glory.

But I’m in the very presence of God
    oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
    God, I’m telling the world what you do!

– Psalm 73:28 [The MSG]

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A Message From a Tree Stump

Freshly cut tree stumps abound across the northern post-winter landscape and they’re delivering an unexpected message of hope.

Every year there are trees that don’t survive the winter weather. Some come crashing down under the weight of snow and ice. Others succumb to the pressure of fierce winds. Then there are trees that, although still standing at the end of the winter season, are in such a bent or cracked condition that they’re a hazard. Since it is better to be safe rather than sorry, those trees must be leveled, too.

The result of all this tree damage and destruction is a very busy season for stump grinders.

In early spring, before the surviving trees have sprouted the buds of fresh foliage, the stump-filled landscape looks desolate and depressing. The gapping holes in the ground where tree trunks once stood stand out like sore thumbs. Without new leaves to cover the bare spots, the absence of the demolished trees is too obvious to be ignored.

But, every year, I am reminded that this barren early spring scene will not last forever. The landscape never stays bleak for long. Life always returns to the earth and, when it does, the stumps aren’t so glaring. In time, the demolished trees will become a distant memory.

In the freshly cut tree stumps there is a message of hope for the brokenhearted:

God is faithful and full of grace. He never has and never will abandon His own.

Even if the landscape of your life appears barren today, look to the Tree of Life that is standing eternally victorious. Fix your eyes on the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and rejoice in God’s power to restore, redeem and renew even the most desolate of conditions.

Though stumps may abound for a season, God is always at work beneath the surface, cultivating fresh root systems and bringing forth new blessings upon the landscape. Remember that through the door of death, God ushers in new life. In the perfect timing of His providential seasons, God will transform the landscape of your life with the lush leaves of His goodness and a bounty of foliage that testifies to His redemptive power.

Trust Father God as He develops the buds of His Spirit upon the branches of your soul. Submit to His pruning. Wait on Him with hopeful anticipation and full assurance. Rest in the promise that God has wonderful plans for you and a future of abundance that will bring restoration to the landscape of your post-winter life.

 

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelations 21:5

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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.