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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.

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Strand by Strand

Two years ago I went short. Super, pixie-cut short.

I made the decision to have my hair chopped off when my long locks became terribly thin. At the time, my health was rapidly declining. I was twenty-six years old and less than seventy-five pounds. Everything about my body was wasting away – hair included.

When I took my seat in the stylist’s chair on June 20th, 2016 I was at peace with a life without miraculous healing. After six years of failing health I had come to accept Multiple Sclerosis as God’s plan for me. As I watched my long locks fall to the floor I watched my dreams of restoration fall, too. Allowing my hair to be cut was the outward expression of my inward decision to cut ties with my will and plan for a life of physical health.

My short pixie cut was a declaration of joyful acceptance. By cutting my hair I declared to the world, and myself, that God was not making a mistake with my illness. He had not abandoned me. My life was not worthless and without purpose. Sickness was part of His plan for my life and I decided I would spend my life rejoicing in it.

But sixteen months ago the words “Lyme Disease” God changed the trajectory of my life – and my hair. In that moment a new door was opened and a future of restoration was revealed. The gloomy prognosis of MS was erased with two words and the mental image of a tick. At once I saw the possibility for a future of complete and total healing.

It didn’t happen overnight or with a thunderous bomb. In my prayers that’s how I had pictured receiving my physical healing but in God’s sovereignty He didn’t answer my prayer according to my will. All along He has been healing me from the inside out in accordance to His perfect will and providence.

To God be the glory for great things He has done and is continuing to do in my body and hair. After eight years of devastating weight loss, pounds are naturally pouring onto my frame. Function is returning to organs that were as good as dead. Even my hair is being restored. My short, thinning strands are being transformed and redeemed with renewed body, thickness and strength.

The journey to physical restoration is only one year in and already God is performing miracles before my very eyes – and mirror. He is fighting battles to reclaim the territory that has been taken by disease. He is defeating my enemies and reclaiming my future health. Against all odds God has sustained every part of me, even the hairs on my head, so He could save me, one strand at a time.

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What NOT to say to a “skinny” person

“You’re so skinny!” If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement directed towards me in the past eight years I’d have a very flush bank account.

Unintentional weight loss was at the genesis of my health saga. I dropped thirty pounds in less than three months and unsolicited commentary from friends, family and complete strangers soon followed. In response to questioning and (oftentimes callous) comments I used to freeze up. Being accused of anorexia or some kind of eating disorder hurt me. I could barely swallow let alone talk, thanks to the lump in my throat. To cope I’d crumble internally and cry externally once the offending commentator was out of earshot.

It has taken a long time (I’m a slow learner) but God has faithfully been teaching me how to handle low weight comments and questions. I’m learning that it is better to extend forgiveness to those who know not what they do and say rather then hold a grudge or be hurt by their words. It is far better to give grace and educate instead.

By opening up in honesty about my diagnosis and health struggles I’ve discovered that most people have no idea that weight loss can be a symptom of Lyme disease. In fact, most people don’t seem to realize that low weight can be a symptom of a whole host of chronic illnesses. The fact of the matter is low weight does not necessarily mean a person is not eating or that they have an eating disorder. Low weight can be a debilitating symptom of chronic disease… Like it is for me.

In an effort to educate with love and grace I have compiled my top three comments that should not be made to someone who is visibly underweight. Although these comments are specifically directed towards low weight the principle behind them applies to all chronic illness. We should all treat each other with love and grace, in sickness or in health.

So, without further ado, the top three comments you should never make to a person who is obviously under weight. And one tip on what to say….

 

1.     Don’t say, “You look like a Holocaust victim.”

Yes, it’s true, I have been on the receiving end of this comment.

It should go without saying that this statement should never be made to anyone, ever. 11 million innocent Jews were killed in the Holocaust at the hands of evil. Telling someone they look like they have been or are in a concentration camp is not only rude it is callous and disrespectful to the immense suffering of millions.

2.     Don’t say, “I wish I were as skinny as you.”

No, actually you don’t. I can’t sit for long periods of time because my butt has no cushion. My feet have lost all the fat on them causing the bones to rub against my shoes, producing constant pain. Because of my low weight I have an extremely low blood pressure, low body temperature, infertility and hair loss.

I could go on but you get the point… Be careful what you wish for. And don’t wish to be as skinny as me.

3.     Don’t say, “You should eat more.”

If only you knew how much and how often I eat then you might change your tune. Unintentional low weight cannot be remedied by drinking more milkshakes, as a doctor once suggested. The food type and amount is not the issue. The problem is the body’s ability to metabolize, digest and use the food. For eight years my body has not been utilizing food leading to blood sugar drops, gallbladder troubles and inescapable stomach pain. If eating more could solve my problems I would have been healed long ago.

4.     Do stay quite about the obvious ailment.

Let me be clear. I do not mean that the underweight person should be treated as if they do not exist. Being treated as invisible can be hurtful, too. Simply treat the underweight person like you would a normal or overweight person. Do not treat the individual as if they were an alien with a mental problem. Treat them like a precious individual with a heart and feelings. Treated every person, regardless of weight, with the dignity and respect you would like to be treated with.

So, in other words say, “Good morning!” and not, “You’re so skinny!” Or say, “How are you this bright and sunny afternoon?” instead of, “You should eat a Big Mac.”

 

For those who have been on the receiving end of callous comments regarding a physical condition or weight I urge you to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Responding in anger only perpetuates the hurt and does not help you heal. Opportunities to enlighten and educate can be missed when we allow rude comments to build walls and burn bridges.

Instead, let us respond like Christ and turn the other cheek. Instead of lashing out, crying or storming off in anger (all of which I have done), choose to extend forgiveness and show mercy. Even if the person making the comment never asks for forgiveness – which they most likely never will – give it anyways. Extend the grace that has been given to you.

 

At every weight and in every physical condition may the encouragement from Ephesians 4:29 guide our speech and heart in every conversation: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

 

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The Most Amazing Come Back Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get out there and run.

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

But I ran anyways.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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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.

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Dandelions: A Beautiful Weed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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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

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The Bubble Saga: Part II

Bubble Saga - Stephanie Rice - Jesus Take the PenIf a picture says a thousand words, then here are three thousand to document the “Bubble Saga” in my left eye.

 

On December 14, 2017 the mysterious bubble on my left eye was at the height of its distress (read: about to burst).

Four days later on December 18 the bubble “reduced” and entered into a state best described as problematic, puffy and protruding.

With no medical intervention (and still no clue what that troubling bubble was really ever about) the pictures tells the amazing story. There is no denying, my eye has undergone miraculous healing.

The unfiltered, never photo-shopped “before” and “afters” give testimony to the wonderful truth that that problematic, painful, puffy protrusion is gone. The bubble that obstructed my vision and bound me to glasses for months has gone away. There is emptiness on my eyelid and it is evidence that a miracle has occurred.

It really should come as no surprise that God would reveal my healing miracle in the emptiness because that is where God revealed the greatest miracle of all.

Up from the empty grave, Jesus Christ rose again to heal with the miracle of His new, eternal life .

All the pictures in the world could never tell the story of the great suffering that Jesus endured before His resurrection. Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, was completely spotless and innocent yet He willingly took on the guilt of every sinner. Jesus died to pardon with eternal forgiveness and save with merciful grace.

Bubble Saga - Stephanie Rice - Jesus Take the Pen

But Jesus rose again. The empty tomb is the evidence that death is defeated and hell has lost its sting. Jesus is Risen with eternal healing in His wings!

For all who seek the healing of His crucifixion and unite with His resurrected life, your miracle of eternal healing has already come. The evidence is in the empty tomb of the risen Lord, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ!