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Heart to Heart: A pen for every season

It took becoming sick to teach me how to talk to God. Lyme, pain, a pen and paper were a few of the choice tools God used to draw me closer to Jesus.

At first, I was resistant. Or, more accurately, I was distracted. The illness was my all-consuming obsession. I was fixated on symptoms, possible causes and an accurate diagnosis. The only time I picked up a pen was to write my medical history in a doctor’s office.

But then something shifted.

The sickness didn’t go away. It remitted – briefly – but then it got worse – much worse. I lost all control of my body and no amount of research could get it back again. Failed attempts at doctoring left me feeling misunderstood. I desperately wanted someone to listen, care and get what I was going through. I needed to vent, be real and know I wasn’t alone.

But what I truly needed most was help from on high; aid from the Great Physician who could carry me through the mystery that had become my life.

Although I had come to know Jesus years before my illness began, I didn’t know how to actually be in a relationship with Him. I had yet to rely on Him fully and in complete dependence. I was saved but I wasn’t walking with my Savior step-by-step and hand-in-hand. Jesus was definitely my friend, but He wasn’t my bestie.

But sickness changed that.

The seed of change that was my need took root in a pen. Writing was God’s gift to me – a communication method that helped me disconnect from the world around me and reconnect with His Spirit. Although the pen and paper, in and of themselves, weren’t the salvation, they were a vital tool God used to deepen and strengthen my relationship with Jesus.

After almost a decade of writing, I have accumulated boxes of notecards, stacks of journals and numerous files on my computer’s hard drive. Every word (some written on tear-stained paper) a testimony to Who sustained me throughout my sickness. The reason I kept fighting for my life and believing in the future is written on those pages. The Person that kept me even when I wanted to end my own life is revealed on a those reams of paper.

It was Jesus. Always and only Jesus.

I’ve often wondered what will happen when I’m not sick anymore. Will I keep writing? Will I still rely on this pen and paper to communicate with God? Will this still be a key tool He uses to meet and chat with me?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. Only God knows what He has planned for the next seasons of my life. But I do know this: Jesus will be there and He’ll keep providing plenty of tools to connect with Him along the way.

Whether or not God uses writing, I know He’ll keep revealing Himself. With or without the use of a pen and paper,  He will continue to show His love by faithfully making His spirit known in incredible and unexpected ways.

In my heart, I sure do hope He keeps using writing to draw me closer to Jesus but I trust that Father knows best. He knows my desires and, more importantly, He knows just what I need in every season of my life. He will provide in the future just like He has in the present and past. Because God is good… He is faithful… And He isn’t finished yet.

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The Shield of Faith

A long, long time ago (read: fall of 2017) a mysterious bubble appeared on my eyelid (thanks chronic Lyme disease). The bubble grew so large that, at times, I thought it might explode. But, by the grace of God, it never did. In time, the bubble began to diminish until one day it was entirely gone.

In my mind’s eye I saw that bubble as a battle in the war for the health of my eyes;a pussy, protruding fight for the territory of my vision. With the bubble gone, I thought the battle was won, once and for all. Until two weeks ago, when a new, less protruding, just as painful, eyelid problem presented itself.

I first encountered my new eyelid issue one night as I was laying down to sleep. All of a sudden, a stabbing pain assaulted my eyes and I couldn’t blink without feeling tortured. I cried and moaned in agony for over two hours until I finally fell asleep.

The next morning I woke up with the same debilitating pain and made a frantic appointment with an eye doctor. After peering into my cornea with a bright light and quizzical look in her eye, the doctor flatly declared, “your eyelids are like sand paper.” 

I was a bit taken aback and confused. How did my eyelids become like sand paper so suddenly and what could I do about it? The doctor didn’t have an answer to the first question but she did have an idea for the second. “Wear your contacts,” she said. “They’ll act as a shield. When you blink, your sand paper eyelids will scratch the contact, not your cornea.”

I rushed home to my contact, excited to put the lenses in my eyes. The moment the contacts met my cornea the discomfort reduced dramatically. A smile spread across my face as I blinked free of stabbing pain. Before long the redness in my eyes diminished and the burning subsided.

Fast forward two weeks and my eye lids are still like sand paper. As the doctor warned, this is a condition that may not go away. But, as has been true throughout every twist and turn of my illness and healing journey, I still believe God can heal my eye. He has the power to redeem and restore everything that is broken – including eyelids.

 

But even if He should choose not to heal this part of me, He has not left me without hope and help for my condition. The Great Physician has provided two shields to protect my cornea: contacts and faith.

As I take up the shields God has provided I must remember that my enemy, satan himself, wants to use this latest healing set back to derail my faith. To kill, steal and destroy my confidence in Christ is always his goal. So, although I’m sure satan wouldn’t mind robbing me of physical vision, that isn’t his primary target. It is spiritual vision he’s after.

But before I ever knew I would have sandpaper eyelids God had a plan for my protection. His solution to keep me guarded from satan’s schemes and every one of life’s problems is faith in Jesus Christ. Even when pain assaults my physical being, the assurance of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus’ resurrection is my unfailing shield. I can stand tall as the battle within my body rages on because the victory for my eternal health and vision is already won.

Thanks to my sandpaper eye lids, I pray to God in a whole new way. Each morning, as I put in my contact lenses, I talk to God and say… “Heavenly Father, thank you for redeeming and renewing the eyes of my heart. Thank you for showing me how to walk by faith and not by sight. Lord, I pray that my eyes will stay fixed on you even when the enemy attacks my body, mind and soul. Help me to hold tightly to the shield of faith so I can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one by the indwelling of Jesus’ resurrection power. Amen.”

If learning how to depend on Jesus as my shield is the reason for my sandpaper eye lids, then to God be the glory for great things He has done! 

 

“…take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” – Ephesians 6:16

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Trust the Process

“Trust the process.”

It’s one of Dr. J’s favorite sayings and one I’ve heard countless times over the past two years. When I first heard about a “healing process” I thought I knew what it meant and what to expect as the process progressed. But it didn’t take long for me to find out I was clueless. Heaven knows I had a lot to learn.

In April 2017, at the beginning of my Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease healing process, I was told it would take two to three years to complete. Although in my optimistic (read: naïve) mind I believed I’d crush the doctor’s estimated time to full physical restoration by completing it in one year – two tops.

Well, two years have come and gone and my process it not over yet. I am still in route to full health, living day-to-day life with lingering ailments and stubborn symptoms. I am not 100% healed but I’m not where I once was and I’m not who I once was.

Along this journey I’ve come to learn what Dr. J means by “healing process.” Unlike I originally thought, it is not only physical. It’s mental and spiritual, too. Healing from Lyme has changed me in body, mind and soul, restoring and renewing from the inside out.  It is a long, challenging and rewarding journey that has shaped, strengthened and sanctified me every step of the way.

The Lyme healing process is unique in its physical manifestations but it is universal in its spiritual application. Whether or not you ever journey through a physical healing process, if you give your life to Jesus and receive His gift of salvation, you will most certainly embark on a spiritual, mental and emotional healing process. Along the way you will encounter setbacks and days of utter defeat, just like I have on my Lyme journey. There will be days you’ll be tempted to give up and plenty of days you’ll struggle just to get up.

But if you keep turning back to Jesus, He will give you the strength you need to continue in the process. Carried on His wings of grace, you will experience unspeakable glory and indescribable mountaintop views. He will lift you from deep pits and set you on your feet again. By His Spirit, He will guide your journey through valleys low and lead you up hills that higher than any you ever imagined you’d climb.

During the past two years of my healing process I have learned priceless principles to healing God’s way. I’d like to share seven of them with you and hope that they bless and encourage you in your own unique healing process:

P: Practice patience. The healing process probably won’t go as fast as you like but if you remain “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” you’ll discover that the slow road to healing is a rewarding one. (Romans 12:12)

R: Remain firmly planted in the foundation of facts over feelings. The healing process is a battle which is why suiting up in the full armor of God is key. Buckle the belt of truth around your waist and stand firm in the promises of God. (Ephesians 6:14)

O: Overcome by the strength of the Lord. Even when the process feels like too much for you to bear, remember that you “can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

C: Keep calm and let Christ carry you on. The process is not yours. It is God’s. Be still and let Him fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

E: Expect a breakthrough. Even when the process feels endless, remember that God has plans and a future in store for you. Live expecting to meet Jesus and experience His grace along the journey. (Jeremiah 29:11)

S: Set your heart, mind and soul on who Jesus is. Watching the process is like watching a pot of water while waiting for it to boil. It seems to take forever. So don’t count the days of trials and troubles. Count the blessings of being loved and saved by the Author and Perfector of your faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

S: Stay the course. To enjoy the healing up ahead you cannot give up. You must give yourself fully to the process, trusting God entirely. In due time a harvest will be produced “if you do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Although it’s true that Jesus saves us in an instant, He sanctifies us for a lifetime. Renewal in His spirit is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process. Healing God’s way isn’t a quick fix. It is a journey that will peel back every layer of your being and purify every crevasse of your body, mind and soul.

The process of letting Jesus heal you will try and test you but in the end, if you let it, God will use every moment of it to make you into the person He created you to be.

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Spring will Spring Again

 I’m mad at winter.

And when I say “winter,” I don’t mean the earth’s meteorological season. Although I’m not particularly loving late winter’s lingering chill, it’s not nearly as infuriating as my body’s persistent season of sickness. That’s the winter that really has me hot (sweating) and bothered.

It was almost two years ago to the day that I received a Lyme disease diagnosis and began treatments to reclaim my health and life. The healing process has been incredibly intense, exhausting and, seemingly, never ending. Regaining my health has been more of a long slog than an early spring. Frigid, gray days have, by far, outnumbered the warm and sunny. This season of fighting Lyme has felt like a perpetual winter.

By now in my Lyme journey I had expected my illness to have thawed. Two years in I knew it might not look like summer quite yet but I at least expected it to feel like late spring. I never imagined I’d still be waking up in the midst of winter’s dark and dreary gloom.

It’s been so long since my body has experienced a true spring that sticks around for more than a day or two that I’ve been tempted to question whether or not my physical condition will ever change. Will I be stuck in this season of sickness for the rest of my days on earth? Am I destined to a lifetime trapped in winter? 

As He so often and so graciously does, God answered my doubts and questions by showing me the wonder of the earth’s spring. He pointed to a twig on a tree and said,

“Spring has always been your favorite season and with good reason. You love it so because spring always comes right after winter, on the heels of brutal cold, snow and ice. That’s when I step in and bring the dead earth back to life!

Spring is such an incredible miracle and it thrills you each and every year when I make it happen! As soon as I command the seasons to change, I hear you oh and awe as if you’ve never seen a budding flower before. You gaze at them with admiration and wonder – just like you’re doing to the one I’ve formed right here on this delicate twig set before you.

In your twenty-eight years of life I have never failed to deliver spring. Not once. I have always put an end to winter. I have always renewed and redeemed the earth. Remember my faithfulness. Rest in my righteousness. I am trust worthy and my promises are true. I will end your winter and bless you with the most beautiful spring you’ve ever seen!

Do not lose hope, little one. Just have faith and believe.”

While fixated on how faithfully God cares for the foundation of the earth and every flower that grows upon it, the Holy Spirit   descended into my wintry soul to strengthen my faith and renew my hope.

Even though my season of sickness has been brutal and long, God has not abandoned me in body, mind or soul. All along He has been orchestrating His plan to renew and restore me. While trapped under the snow and ice of symptoms and illness, Jesus has been protecting the root of my spirit so that, when the time is right, I will bloom like a beautiful flower.

To my Father God all I can say is, “Forgive me for hating on winter and lamenting the length of this sickness. Teach me to live with the joy of salvation in each and every season. Restore me with the hope of heaven that renews my spirit with the promise of eternal spring. Not my winterless will, Lord, but yours be done – no matter what the seasons may bring.”

“Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them.
Though I am lowly and despised,
I do not forget your precepts.
Your righteousness is everlasting
and your law is true.”

Psalm 119:140-141

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The Purpose(s) for Detox

It’s detox time…again.

For the past nineteen months I’ve been a revolving door for detox. Lyme was just the beginning. After eradicating the borrelia and bartonella bacterium from my system the focus of my fight shifted to defeating co-infections. Among the evil host of destructive invaders were Epstein Barr, parasites, Candida and now, a trifecta of mycotoxins, mercury and mold.

By now detox should be business as usual for me. Heaven knows I’ve dealt with enough of it! Yet every time I embark on a new round of detox I end up baffled by the new set of bizarre symptoms that appear. Bumps on my head. Burning in my eyes. A nose that drips like a faucet. Sneezing. Hot flashes alternating with frigid cold flashes. Fevers. Tingling up and down my arms. Electrical shock pains in my back. Heart palpitations. And this is just a sampling. There are more I could list and some I couldn’t (thankfully, a few have been forgotten in the passage of time).

Detox would be harder to tolerate if it weren’t for the healing purpose it serves – more specifically, the healing purposes. No matter what infection is being cleared or what set of strange symptoms manifest, the detox always accomplishes two fundamental purposes that benefit me body, mind and soul.

The first purpose is physical.

The detox frees my body from the foreign infectious invader de jour. Detox is the healing road that must be travel in order to reach the desired final destination of full health. During the detox healthy cells are strengthened and fortified by immune boosting supplements while, at the same time, disease killing medicines are administered to attack the infectious foe. The result is a conflict of interests. One that wants to stay and destroy. The other that wants to cleanse and purify.

Although the battle can be brutally painful and long, by staying strong and refusing to abandon the fight, health always has the final say. The disease always goes down in the detox and healing wins the day.

Which brings me to the second and infinitely more significant purpose for the detox: the spiritual cleansing.

During detox the physical struggle is only half of the battle. The attack is internal, too. Satan uses the symptoms plaguing my body as a weapon in an attempt to destroy my confidence in God and kill my hope of healing. While enduring physical suffering the enemy capitalizes on my condition by whispering lethal lies into my fragile spirit. “God is never going to heal you. That’s not your story. His healing is for someone else. But it isn’t for you.”

At times I’ve believed the enemy. During physically ravaging rounds of detox I’ve practically given up fighting for my soul. Maybe the enemy is right, I’ve thought. Maybe I’m destined to a life of chronic illness. Maybe that is my inescapable fate.

But God never lets me remain in detox defeat. His grand for the detox, to purify and cleanse my soul, always wins the day. Through the wisdom of His Holy Word God draws me back to the truth of who He is and the perfection of His will and ways. Using true stories from Genesis to Revelation God silences the lies of the enemy and reaffirms His miraculous power to save and sustain. He takes me back to the accounts of lepers who were healed, children who were freed from demons and the barren who gave birth. Then He brings me to my knees before the cross of Calvary and fortifies my faith with the eternal victory of Jesus Christ.   

God is the Great Physician who detoxes the faith of His children, sanctifying them in body, mind and soul. His desires for us is that we be made perfect as His Son is perfect and cleansed from all unrighteousness. When we enter the presence of Jesus’ and unite our lives with His redeeming resurrection power, God goes to work detoxing our hearts from the burdens of worry, fear, and concern. He slays the lies of the enemy and fortifies our fragile souls with perfect peace and rest. By the Almighty power of God the beauty of restoration is revealed out of the ashes of detox’s devastation.

When the body, spirit and mind are under attack God offers us the looking glass of faith that transforms our battles into a glimpse of the Savior’s overcoming life. It is there, in the midst of our greatest struggles, that God most dramatically displays the greatness of His salvation and strength.

By standing on the promises of God all those who call on the Mighty name of Jesus can experience joy in affliction and hope in all circumstances (even detox circumstances) knowing that God is faithful… God is good… And He isn’t finished.