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How Moods Go: By Kicking

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Moods never go by praying, moods go by kicking.” And he’s right. “Gently” isn’t an adjective that can be applied to mood-removal. Moods must be eradicated by force.

Although I’ve read Chambers’ words countless times and heartily agree that what he wrote is undeniably true, I must admit that I’m often reluctant to kick my moods – especially “sick” mood.

When chronic illness gets me down and I become trapped in a dark and gloomy pit I call it “sick” mood. In an emotionally sick state I feel too low to rise and too hopeless to try. I reach the end of my rope and all I want to do – all I can think to do – is sulk. Tears are usually shed as I cry over my physical maladies and question why God has allowed this debilitating illness to plague me for so long.

Self-absorption is key to “sick” mood. Fixation on the self is at the heart of it. While trapped in a “sick” mood I am entirely consumed with my chronic illness, my pain, my suffering and my personal disappointments. My every thought revolves around me, myself and I.

The very last thing I want to do in a “sick” mood is kick myself – even if only metaphorically. I want the exact opposite of a kick. I want a hug. I want to be coddled, indulged, justified and humored. I want to be told that my feelings are understandable; that it is okay to get down in the pit; that I should lay low and feel my pain. I want to vent to God and lament my lot in life.

But “sick” mood always makes me sicker – physically, mentally and emotionally. When I give “sick” mood an inch it takes a mile and, before I know it, I’m completely paralyzed by pain and suffering. By indulging the mood I issue an open invitation to sorrow and sadness. Every negative, depressed, hopeless feeling receives a boost of discouraged energy and I get dragged deeper into the dark pit.

There is only one way out of “sick” mood: a round-house resurrection kick.

Even in the midst of pain and suffering Christ’s light and overcoming life is available to me but I can’t experience it if I’m unwilling to kick my mood. Until I reject the sadness of sickness and take hold of Christ’s resurrection power the mood won’t flee. I cannot capitulate to chronic illness and claim the joy, love, peace and hope of Jesus at the same time. One must go for the other to thrive. “Sick” mood must die for the Risen power of Christ to survive in me.

Jesus stands at the ready, willing and able to provide all the strength I need to kick “sick” mood and it can be mine the moment I surrender my will, ways and self-absorbed wallowing. The second I deny myself at the foot of the cross and claim the truth and life of the Holy Spirit “sick” mood is defeated.

When “sick” mood gets kicked abundant life is ushered in. Overcoming, spirited, energetic joy is revived. Restful, calming, comforting peace is restored. Hope makes a comeback and all is well with my soul.

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Jesus, take the pen

For the past few months I’ve been fighting every writer’s arch nemesis: the dreaded dry spell.

Every time I sit down to write a prolific, enlightened word my fingers freeze up and mind draws a blank. Even when compelled to share a particular message the words don’t come out right. The moment my fingers hoover over the keyboard my thoughts evaporate. I hit the keys, racking my brain for the right words but it’s useless. The dry spell has me in its clutches and I’ve been unable to escape.

Being caught in the arid land of a writing dry spell has caused me to experience great grief. For eight years, writing has been a rich source of joy in my life. While experiencing loneliness, isolation and loss, writing has been a much-needed buoy for my ailing soul. When chronic illness closed doors and changed the course of my life, picking up a pen provided me with purpose.

But, more importantly, writing has been my lifeline. As I’ve struggled through sickness, God has used writing as a means to communicate with me and fill me with His strength. Through writing God has reached down and lifted me up from the depths of despair.

Although I didn’t write about it at the time, over the past few years I have experienced severe depression. At my lowest points I have truly wanted to die and a desire I shared with my Mother on numerous occasions. Plagued by the ongoing agony and pain of chronic illness my will to live has been threatened. Physical affliction has compelled me to plead with God and ask Him to release me from my suffering – if not by instantaneous healing then by the escape of death.

But God didn’t give me what I asked for. He didn’t let me die nor did He heal me in an instant. But God didn’t abandon me, either. Every time I fell into the pit of hopelessness and begged for death He gave me what I needed most: an infusion of hope.

God carried me through the darkest periods of my life by giving me one command: get up and write. He used writing as a lifeline to fill me with overcoming life and encourage me with truth. When depression broke me and brought me to the end of myself God grabbed hold of me using a pen and a blank page. Over and over again He has reached down and guided my hand to write a message of perseverance and endurance when I needed it most. To save my life and rescue me from the brink of despair Jesus has truly taken my pen.

In the past few months my body has experienced remarkable healing, much less pain and an improvement in overall health. With the physical improvements have come emotional improvements too. My bouts of depression have become less frequent and less severe while my daily pain levels have been greatly reduced.

But the physical renewal has had ill effects on my writer’s life. Without a need for ongoing, moment-by-moment emotional support my ability to formulate thoughts has dried up. The healing of my body has resulted in a barren season in my writer’s soul.

And I know why.

I’m in a dry spell because for the past eight years most of my writing has been about suffering, affliction and pain. Sickness has been the story of my life – the one ’ve been equipped and compelled to write. But my body is healing now. I’m physically stronger than I was and I’m thankful for that.

The dry spell I’m experiencing is not truly a writer’s dry spell. it is a sickness dry spell. All of these years I have depended on the thorn in my flesh to draw me to the throne of God. I have relied on physical suffering for inspiration and illumination. But physical sorrow isn’t the only reason to write. Pain and suffering is not the only reason to ask Jesus to take my pen and fill the page.

Praise God, I am not spiritually dry. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit is alive and well in my life, compelling me to continue writing and praying, “Jesus take the pen.”

 

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Choose Joy

It was 5 PM on Halloween night and the thought of Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat attire was taunting me. “You’re too sick to dress up in a fun-loving character’s costume”… “You feel too lousy to wear a stripped hat and big red bow… “You certainly can’t put on a cartoon character smile in your physical condition.”

Weeks before the October 31st holiday I purchased my Cat in the Hat costume accessories. With high hopes for my Halloween day health I double-clicked on Amazon and, two days later, Prime delivered a classic Dr. Seuss inspired ensemble featuring the Cat’s signature tall, white and red-stripped hat, big red bow and white gloves.

When the package arrived at the door I let out an audible sigh. On the day I clicked “Complete Order” I’d felt strong and hopeful for my health’s near future. That had only been two days prior but already my gut had taken another hit. With Halloween still a few weeks away I silently prayed that the suffering in my stomach would subside before the holiday arrived. “God, I want to be a joyful Cat in the Hat on October 31st but I can’t if I’m plagued with a gripping pain in my gut. Please heal me…and quick!

For the next three weeks the costume accessories remained unopened in my closet as I waited for my prayer to be answered. Days passed and the pain didn’t. When October 31st finally arrived my physical condition wasn’t the least bit improved. In fact, it had worsened.

As the sun was beginning to set on Halloween night and trick-or-treaters were about to hit the streets in search of candy I laid on my closet’s floor gripping my stomach in pain. That’s when I looked up and, out of the corner of my eye, caught a glimpse of the Cat in the Hat attire still in its bag. All day I had tried to avoid the accessories, too discouraged by my condition to consider changing into a costume. The very thought of the Cat in the Hat produced in me feelings of sadness and grief until I looked up and noticed a picture on the side of the package – a picture I hadn’t noticed before: two smiling faces dressed like Cat in the Hat smiling back at me.

The sight of those smiling faces quieted my mind’s taunting voice and flooded my spirit with a fresh burst of resolve. It was as if the Cat in the Hat himself were beckoning me to rise up, change my attitude and my attire and choose joy.  

Five minutes later I was wearing black pants and a black button up shirt underneath a white suit jacket. Around my neck was a big red velvety bow. On my hands were white cotton cartoon gloves and on my head was a tall, wide brimmed, white and red-stripped hat. On my face was a big, wide toothy, cartoon smile and in my heart was overcoming joy.

On Halloween 2018 I embraced the joy and delight of the Cat in the Hat. On All Hallows Eve I choose to wear a smile. Yes, I was in pain. Yes, my gut was still in distress. But my heart was full of persistent hope. In my spirit that was determination and resiliency.

Choosing joy transformed my Halloween night from one of defeat into one of overwhelming victory. Choosing joy will do that – it will change things. It will change people. It will transform circumstances and outcomes.

When I prayed to God weeks before October 31st I believed my pain needed to be removed in order for joy to be restored but God showed me the error of my ways. God used a Cat in the Hat costume to remind me that the presence of joy is not contingent on the absence of pain. I do not need to be painless to be joyful because the joy of Jesus is so powerful it can overcome my pain.

Every time l rise up and approach God’s throne of grace with faith and belief, asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit and joy of Jesus’ victorious life, God always delivers. He annihilates pain’s power in the presence of Christ’s resurrection power. He lifts sorrow and sadness and replaces it with joy and gladness.

Every day I get to make a choice about the attitude I will wear. By the grace of God and the strength of the Risen King I pray I’ll always choose joy.

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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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Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

I couldn’t get the tune of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” out of my head, which I fully admit is strange since I’ve never seen the musical that made the song famous nor have I heard it played recently. But once those famous five became stuck in my mind they began playing on repeat. It is the grieving tone of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” that has struck a chord in my heart. I can sympathize with the sentiment since I, too, have been doing a lot of crying as of late.

The tears I’ve been shedding have nothing do with Argentina and everything to do with the life I’ve missed in the past eight years. I’ve been crying for my lost twenties and the hopes, dreams and plans that died along the way.

The impending fall has jogged my memory and sent me on a reminiscing journey back to ten years ago this month. August 2008 is when I left for college with visions of how my life would unfold. As a normal eighteen year old, I was excited to take on the world as a thriving young adult but the transition to college was the last step in my life that went according to plan. Soon after my health began to fail, marking the end of my “normal” life.

Ever since my life has been an uncontrollable, unpredictable and often painful ride. Sickness snatched from my hands life milestones and gave me a list of failures, disappointments and setbacks instead. Although I am finally on the road to recovery I have so far left to go and so many years I cannot reclaim. My body can recover but I cannot recover my lost eight years.

The fact is that my twenties are nearly over and that reality has made me cry out in sorrow like Argentina cried in Evita.

After overplaying the one line, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” in my mind over and over again, I was curious about the rest of the song. What lyrics came next? I didn’t know so I had to look it up. That’s when I discovered the best part of the song wasn’t the five words I had been humming. It’s the lines that came next.

“All my wild days, my mad existence, I’ve kept my promise. Don’t keep your distance.”

Upon reading those words my tears dried up. It was as if God were singing over me, telling me to stop my crying because He has kept all of His promises.

God has kept His promise to never leave me nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) In fact, in the past eight years, I have experienced the nearness of God more powerfully and intimately than ever before in my life.

God has kept His promise to give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) And not just any future or a flawed future of my desire. He has kept His promise to fulfill His good and glorious future in my life!

God has kept His promise to give me strength when I am weary and uphold me when I am weak. (Isaiah 49:29-31) God’s strength has been on great display in my sickness, especially when He sustained me at sixty-five frail pounds.

God has kept His promise to uphold me with His righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

God has kept His promise to cleanse, sanctify and renew me. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God has kept His promise to fill me His Spirit and indwell me with His Son. (John 14:27)

All through my wild sick days and mad existence, God has kept every single promise He’s ever made and all He asks is that I never keep my distance from Him.

The moment I fix my eyes on the King of Glory my crying ceases. Face to face with Jesus I cannot lament what I’ve lost because all I can see is the fullness of eternal life I’ve gained in Christ. My hope and peace can rest secure because I am rooted in the eternal, unchangeable, unshakable Almighty God of Heaven and Earth who always keeps His promises.

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Choose to Smile

“Geez, you’re sure out of breath!”

She was right. I was winded and red faced. My heart was racing, palms were sweaty and I felt like I’d just run a road race.

But this wasn’t a marathon or even a treadmill at the gym. It was the pick-up counter at my local coffee shop.

I paused, unsure of how to respond to the prodding stares coming from the baristas on the other side of the counter. Two women were staring at me, both nodding in agreement, recognizing that I was obviously, and oddly, breathless. The first barista was laughing as the second piped up. “Yea. She’s right! And your face is red, too.” she said with a chuckle.

At that moment I knew I had three options to choice from when it came to how I would respond.

Option A: Cry.

Tears used to be my go-to response whenever I was confronted by unkind, at times rude, commentary regarding my physical condition. If I didn’t cry on the spot I cried later in the bathroom. If I didn’t breakdown right then and there it was because I was holding back the tears with a lump in my throat.

Thankfully, I decided against Option A.

Option B: Educate.

At times this has been my best option when an ill-informed individual has made a statement that, had they known about my sickness, they would not have made. To educate the baristas I could have told them that my out of breath, winded condition was on account of my latest Lyme detox. For the sake of informing, I could have told them that since beginning my latest round of treatments these hot flashes had been striking me multiple times a day.

But it wasn’t the time nor place to enter into a discussion about the details of my disease and so I decided against option B.

Option C: Smile and laugh.

To smile, laugh and respond with grace is always the best option. Even if another word is never spoken, a smile speaks volumes. A smile and a little chuckle signals that life is short and it is silly to take simple comments too seriously. A smile extends grace to those who don’t know the background behind my breathlessness or cause of my condition. A smile says, “You don’t know why I’m out of breath and that’s okay.”

I choice option C.

 

There was a day not so long ago that I would have chosen option A and in some cases I still do choose option B but, in all cases, it is always best to practice option C. Smile. Laugh. Give grace.

Not every person I encounter will know or has to know about my sickness. Every barista that hands me a coffee cup doesn’t need to be enlightened about Lyme and the trials and tribulations of detox. God knows the ups and downs. God knows the cause of my breathlessness and the gory details of my detox and that’s enough.

God knows and loves me just as I am, sickness and all. God sees the fight underway for my life and He is cheering me on. The world doesn’t need to see it or even know that I’m in the fight for my life because the Creator and Sustainer of my body is fully aware of my every battle.

God is fighting for me, with me and through me so I can smile and say, “Ha! You’re right. Maybe I just drank my coffee to fast!”

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Free at Last

I was balancing atop a paddle board, floating down an ocean creek, when the sweet relief of freedom washed over me.

After slipping underneath a footbridge I was welcomed into a grassy paradise full of Blue Heron, Osprey and Egrets. Nature was at its finest and for a few minutes I simply sat down, closed my eyes and enjoyed the sounds of the stillness. Guided by the water’s gentle current, I floated peacefully beneath the bright sun, basking in the goodness of God’s creation.

Four years ago this scene wasn’t possible for me to experience. Standing upright on a paddle boarding in southern summer heat was an impossible dream. In my mind I imagined what it would be like to experience nature while floating atop calm waves and gliding down gentle waters but my body simply wouldn’t allow it. The muscles in my left leg and arm were held taut like rubber bands that refused to relax. They tugged and pulled relentlessly, especially in the heat. For years, the excruciating pain and debilitating spasticity controlled my activities and held hostage my dreams of outdoor adventures.

But a miracle has happened. The impossible has been made possible. My dream of freedom has at last become my reality!

My body has been liberated from its spasticity. The rubber bands in my muscles have been released. Healing has loosened the inner rubber bands that bound me. I am no longer held taut by disease. Pulling and tugging in the heat no longer controls me. I have been set free indeed!

As I glided in the open ocean waters, celebrating the healing that has restored my physical freedom, I was awe-struck by an even greater miracle than my body’s liberation.

Spiritual freedom and liberation from sin.  

The most incredible, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping miracle I have ever and will ever experience is being set free by the blood of Jesus Christ. On the cross of Calvary my Savior severed my bands of sin. The debilitating, deadly pain that had me trapped in an eternal grave was defeated when Jesus rose again. Sin no longer has mastery over me. Shame no longer has control. Because I have been liberated with Christ’s resurrected, victorious life I am eternally free indeed.

Basking in the brilliance of God’s creation I was reminded that the glory of freedom is always at its finest in the presence of the Christ’s Holy Spirit while gliding atop His waves of everlasting grace and perfect peace.

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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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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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The Joy that Freedom Brings

It’s here. The day children wait for all year. And no, I’m talking about Christmas. Jesus’ birthday didn’t suddenly move to June.  The highly anticipated day I’m referring to is none other than the first day of summertime freedom. It’s official. School’s out for the summer.

All year long students have been held like caged birds trapped in small, stuffy classrooms. Confined to uncomfortable desks and a dictatorial bell schedule they have not been free to flit around and fly. For one hundred and eighty days they have waited for summer and all the fun it brings. Now it is here and students are giddy with relief.

In commemoration of the final day of school children and adults of all ages are gathering at amusement parks and picnic pavilions to celebrate. There will be rejoicing on roller coaster rides and suds of fun on water slides. Ice cream will be eaten for lunch and funnel cake will be devoured for dinner. For one day shouts of glee will be encouraged and no one will be shushed.

On school picnic day children are full of the joy that freedom brings.

 

In June or January, while stuck at a desk or basking in the sun, I aspire to live with the joy of a child enjoying the first day of summer vacation. I long to embody a child-like delight and glee as I rejoice in endless freedom.

I have every reason to be full of joy because Jesus Christ has set me free. God has released me from the guilt of my past. I am no longer caged by sin and shame. The door to salvation has been opened and on the other side is an eternity infinitely more glorious than summer.

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

We are free to be full of the joy that freedom brings.