Monday, April 24, 2017

In the Right Hands

A few days ago, I was in my car on a sunny day and I hadn't put on my sunglasses.  That may not sound like a big deal, but I have chronic migraine and being out in the bright sun without sunglasses is unthinkable.  Unthinkable because it usually causes some level of pain and can trigger a migraine.  But, thanks to my second Botox treatment a few months ago, I was able to be in the sun without sunglasses.  What made this moment particularly special was I didn't make a conscious decision to keep my sunglasses off...I didn't think about it at all.  I am always thinking about what may cause pain or trigger a migraine because they happen enough without me being able to control a trigger, so of course I'm going to try to control what I can.  On this day, I was feeling so good with no pain, there wasn't even a thought of putting on my sunglasses.  What a blessing!

Botox is interesting because it is the toxin that causes botulism, a very scary disease that can be fatal.  In fact, the toxin Botulinum is considered one of the most lethal toxins for humans.  But, for as dangerous as it can be for humans, there are many scientists that have shown that it can be used medicinally.  For example, one reason the toxin is so dangerous is because it causes widespread paralysis when left untreated.  But the same toxin, when injected purposefully in different areas like a leg muscle with spasticity, can help loosen the muscle and allow a child to crawl or walk when they otherwise could not.  In the case of chronic migraine, when it is injected in purposeful areas of the head and neck, it can prohibit the neurotransmitters from causing the debilitating pain and other symptoms during a migraine.

Something that is terrible can also be a healing agent in the right hands.  I find that fascinating!  A friend was cured of bladder cancer with tuberculosis put directly in the bladder.  There are so many other examples in medicine that show how something bad becoming something good for a patient.

God does that with us.  We live in a world full of pain - physical and emotional pain.  But we can take our pain and give it to God.  We can let Him be the master and healer of our pain and bring something good out of it.  I am convinced of this because He has done this over and over in me.  Romans 8:18 (NLT) says, "Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later."  And Romans 8:28 (NLT) says, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."  And my favorite verses that have given me so much hope through the years are found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
Did you read that!?  "Our spirits are being renewed every day."  Who I am today is the result of God taking both the good and the bad in my life and shaping me to be more like Him.  He has woven His trademark healing in my spirit and is making me into the beautiful person He already sees me to be.  Something that was meant for bad in my life is something God can turn into beauty.  My physical pain is a constant reminder of better things to come, and I will continue to ask for physical healing, but I also know as long as I give it to God, God will use it to continue forming me into a more complete me while still on this earth.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Dealing with Disappointment

My husband and I spent about 11 hours on the road yesterday sending our oldest son back to school.  The drive down was okay; we hit a few spots of lake-effect snow, but they were short-lived.  The bonus was no hint of a migraine all the way down.  We dropped our son off at his dorm, gave him a hug and I sat back in the car and almost immediately felt a migraine coming on fast and strong.  I took my medicine right away, but the migraine continued to build.  No matter what I did - steroid, 2nd dose of migraine medicine, food, caffine, ginger - this migraine intended to build to horrible pain.  My evening included about 6 hours in the car of terrible pain and another hour and half at home in terrible pain before I could finally sleep in pain.  There is a diagnosis for that kind of migraine - intractable migraine.  That means it is too stubborn and strong to let any medicine help.

My journey with chronic migraine has been one wrought with disappointment.  There have been several disappointments in treatments that only kind of work but the side effects are enormous.  There have been several natural remedies tried and failed.  There have been attempts with remedies not covered by insurance like chiropractor and massage only to fail. There have been hopes of progress by having a really good week only to be followed by a really bad week.  But I have learned that I need to keep trying; I need to keep going.  And I am certainly going to keep asking God for healing even though I've dealt with the disappointment of continued pain.

This disappointment makes me think of the story of John the Baptist while he was in prison.  Jesus had been performing many miracles while John the Baptist was in prison.  When John heard what was happening, he sent for two men to talk to Jesus.  Please use this link to read Luke 7:18-28.  There are interesting things going on here.  First, John almost seems to have a wavering of faith when he asked, "Are you the Messiah we've been expecting, or are you someone else?"  I say this because he declared him the One they've been expecting when he baptized him.  But Jesus' answer might seem a little strange on the surface because He mentioned signs found in Isaiah 61 and 42 he had fulfilled. Those chapters in Isaiah also say He would free prisoners and John the Baptist hadn't been freed. I wonder if that was where John needed some clarification because Jesus ended with His message to him with, "Blessed are those who do not stumble on account of me."

What could that mean?  I believe Jesus was giving Him the reminder of who He was.  Even more importantly, Jesus was letting Him know that our individual expectations of how Jesus should work isn't necessarily the way He is going to work.  When we can trust Him through those times, we are promised blessing.  In this case, we can see there was a literal freedom of prisoners for the Israelites in the Old Testament; however, we also receive freedom through Jesus from other things like eternal death, sin, fear, and other chains keeping us prisoners.

So what are my current blessings that I know were from God last night even though there wasn't the immediate healing I know with all my heart God could have given me?  First was the blessing of finding a fast-casual restaurant that had freshly made chicken broth promised with no migraine aggrivating ingredients.  And that good broth was filled with fresh veggies and included celery and kale, which help my migraines.  I was even able to have them put fresh ginger in it, which often helps my migraines!  They had non-soda caffinated drinks like apple cider green tea.  My wonderful husband delayed our trip to take care of these for me.  I was blessed with my husband softly playing worship songs on a Christian station keeping my focus on better things.  I was blessed with anti-nausea medicine that worked.

We face disappointment in life and sometimes that disappointment comes from God not performing the way we would like Him to perform.  In those times, we need to look at what God is doing rather than what He isn't.  I say that because God is always doing something and the end result will be better even if we don't see it now.  Still having trouble focusing on what God is doing?  Here is a song that blessed me greatly in my pain last night that may be a help to you.  It is "No Longer Slaves" by Jonathan and Melissa Helser.  You can watch their video here.

Our bondage isn't always seen.  Sometimes the work He is doing is freeing us from an unseen chain that is bigger than the freedom we think we need. No matter what is happening, if we have declared Jesus our Savior, we can rest in the amazing freedom He gave us from our sin.  We can declare, "I am a child of God!"

Sunday, October 23, 2016

We've Got This

My chronic migraine is very unpredictable and takes on a different form with each migraine.  A lot of my migraines respond decently to my medicine and allow me to function, even if there is still a bit of pain.  But every now and then I have a break through monster migraine that is so painful and has so many other symptoms that it is impossible to function.  This week, I had another one of my monster migraines that knocked me off my feet.  I had done everything right - took my medicine within the time frame needed for it to work, but it didn't work.  So I took the steroid I'm supposed to take if my medicine doesn't work and that didn't work, at least not fast enough.  I had gone in to work fully expecting to feel better soon, but instead I got even sicker and two hours later I made it home just in time for the migraine to completely take over.  But, in the two hours I was at work, I was blessed beyond words and in ways that helped me cope through the worst of the migraine.

I am on staff at a church, which means that when we see someone needs prayer we stop what we are doing and pray for them.  Some of my coworkers realized that I was having a bad migraine during that two hour period I was there, and one by one they stopped by my desk and prayed for me.  Honestly, I was so overwhelmed by their caring prayers for me even though I wasn't able to show them how much it meant to me.  But that wasn't all that happened.  That particular morning was a busy morning at the church and we had the Ladies Bible Study meeting and several other people stopping by.  A few of them came by and prayed for me and the ladies meeting in the Bible study prayed for me during their time together.

I'm not one who likes to have a lot of attention and I often push away the attention, but I was too sick to worry about that.  In fact, I look at that day and I really needed those prayers.  I know a lot of people pray for me often, but on that day I got to experience their prayers in such a loving way.  I cannot fully express how the love I experienced through so many people was exactly what I needed.  God expresses His love in so many ways and on this day He used people - the church.  But isn't that the way we should be functioning?

God made us to need each other.  He made us to love each other.  We are often experiencing Him through our love and care for each other.
Galatians 6:2, 9-10 (NIV) says, "Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ...Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."
I John 4:11-12 (NIV) says, "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us."
 We are told to carry each other's burdens and do good to one another because doing these things with and for each other is an expression of God's love in us.  And, I can personally testify that through the love of so many people, I experienced another expression of God's love to me.  It was like God used the church to say to me, "We've got this."

So, let us continue to look for opportunities to be an expression of God's love to the people around us.  After all, it is an expression of God's love working in us.

How can you show God's love to others?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We Interrupt This Life To Bring You: Rest

In a few days I have an appointment to see my neurologist to give an update of how I am doing with my chronic migraine and the change we made with my medication.  The medication I've been on had been showing signs of working for me so we made a mutual decision to slowly increase it and check in after six weeks.  But now I am wondering where we will be with that course because instead of getting better, my condition has been pretty bad.  Just this week alone, I've had a string of five days of migraine.  While my preventative medicine helps lower the pain level and my emergency medicine also lowers the pain, I am still functioning with pain and all the other annoying symptoms that come with my migraine such as tingling hands, numbing face, nausea, and painful skin on my neck and shoulders.

The other day it caught up with me and I was physically and emotionally tired.  I was sick and tired of feeling drained and in pain and having the migraines dictate what I get to do.  I had been icing my head all evening and while it wasn't close to being my worst migraine, it was persistent and hurting a lot and had caused me to isolate myself in my room because my head couldn't handle the noise of the video game my husband and son were playing.  Soon it was time to go to bed and I lay in the dark in pain.  Oh, I was tired!  So tired, that the pain brought tears to my eyes and I realized how frustrated I felt, which brought more tears.  I think what I hate the most about the migraines is how they don't just mess up my plans but they effect my family.  More tears.

Here is the interesting thing God did with that.  Earlier that day, I read this post written by a pastor my husband used to work with at another church.  Actually, I read the post a couple of times because the prayer she wrote messed me up.  Tamar wrote how she began to pray this prayer over her life, "Lord, remove from me all false burdens placed on me by people, leaders, churches and even myself."  The reason this messed me up is because I realized how I had been burdened by false burdens of expectations from people and myself (in fact, mostly my perfectionist self) and it was time to bring some clarity to my life and just let God give me direction.  So I prayed that prayer over my life and added one little bit to the end, "...and let me be yoked to You so that I can follow Your direction for my life."  I was thinking of Matthew 11:30 (NIV) "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

I woke up the next day still with my migraine but not so frustrated and able to do some things.  Later that evening I went to church and God wasn't done with the lesson for me and had some more things to tell me through my pastor's sermon.  You see, at the end of the sermon, what verse would God have him use?  Matthew 11:29 (NIV) "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."  The sermon was about giving our emotions to God and how in that verse the rest for your souls was rest for your emotions.  It was as if God was telling me He had heard my prayer and He saw my tears and He was promising me rest as long as I kept bringing it to Him.

Look, I'm not saying that God will make life easy.  But, I have a God who cares for and loves me.  And it was a beautiful reminder that I needed to keep coming to Him, because whenever I have come to Him in the past I have found whatever I have needed.  So I place my false burdens at His feet and ask Him to place His yoke upon me because that is where I will find clarity and rest.

This post is linked with Faith Filled Friday, Faith n Friends, Fresh Market Friday, and Grace and Truth.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Always Learning...Always Teaching

Where I live, kiddos will be going back to school this week and I'm sure that most of them are not very excited about it.  It is crazy for me because I now have a child starting their second year in college, a senior in high school and a sophomore in high school.  It really seems like time has flown through these parenting years.  One thing that is certain for all three of my kiddos is that no matter how old they are, they will come out of this year of school having learned some things that they didn't know at the beginning of this year.  That is the whole point of school - to help you learn new things.  If you didn't need to learn new things you wouldn't be there (and my child in college wouldn't be paying so much to be there!).  But, what if God felt that way about our spiritual walk as well?

What if God expected us to continue to learn and grow every day as if we were in "spiritual school?"  I don't mean seminary; I just mean that we shouldn't be the same person today that we were a year ago because we are moving forward and growing.  We are learning and growing and letting God stretch us.  Here are a few verses to show what I mean:

Psalm 119:64 (NIV) "The earth is filled with Your love, LORD; teach me Your decrees."

Isaiah 48:17 (NIV) "This is what the LORD says - your Redeemer, the Holy One of Isreal: 'I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you the way you should go.'"

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV) "What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us."

God expects us to learn through Him and through others He puts in our lives continuously.  But it doesn't stop there; He wants us to share that with others as well.  He wants us to grow so we can then help others to grow.  He created a system to continue to grow, love, and teach itself through Him.  Here was Jesus' final command to us before He left this earth:

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) 'Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'"

Whatever God is showing you isn't meant just for you.  Perhaps there are elements that are personal, but the overall teaching can be shared with others.  We are meant to lift each other up in our own ways and we are all learning something that can be helpful to someone else.

What is God teaching you that can help someone else today?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Purpose In Any Place

I had the opportunity to listen to some amazing speakers over the last few days at the Global Leadership Summit.  As usual, I have to take time to think through all the information that I heard and soak it in.  Most of the the speakers were talking about growing leadership skills; however, there were some talks that God used to speak more to my heart.  One of the speakers was T.D. Jakes.  I have to admit that I missed some of what he said because I got hung up on some of his points and found myself thinking through what he had said.

T.D. Jakes reminded us that God made our bodies to give us pain to tell us when something is wrong so we would know to do something about it.  The author, Philip Yancey, touched on the same topic in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts.  In fact, Philip Yancey shows us the danger of what happens when the body loses the ability to tell us there is something wrong through pain.  T.D. Jakes was relating physical pain to the pain of injustices we see in our country right now.  And while he had really great points that he was making and I was agreeing with him, I also was feeling a tug in my spirit over my own physical pain that I have been going through for almost a daily basis over the last few years.

Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) says,
For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

God knew before I ever did that I would have a roadblock of pain that would redirect me.  He knew that I would have to stop in my tracks and figure out what it all meant.  He knew what He had woven into my life because He had prepared it for me and created me in Christ Jesus to do good works in advance before I even walked this path.  So just because there is a path of pain doesn't mean it is a path of uselessness.  In fact, if God hasn't offered me the beautiful healing I have been asking for, then at least allow me do good works in the pain.  Oh God, reach someone else in this pain and give them hope!  That is why I continue to write.

Perhaps you are in a place where you are feeling useless or hopeless.  I want you to know that God knew you would be where you are today and wants you to know He is right there with you.  You are His handiwork.  He created you in Christ Jesus.  But there is just so much more than just being created!  He created you with a purpose.  Every moment of your life is purposed in Christ Jesus.  Every moment is an opportunity to do something that matters in the life of someone else.  God made you to love others through Christ.  What can you do today?