Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To Live Is Christ

     This post is the most difficult one to compose thus far.. I am not even sure what direction it may lead. I have a desire to "sing" God's praises for what I termed a "mysterious illness" that began in 2001 in my last post. My struggle is how to convey to you my experiences without it being interpreted as being about me instead of God, yet I am going to try.
     By 2001 my husband and I had raised three awesome daughters. Our two oldest daughters had married. Our youngest was still living with us and going to college. She subsequently married in 2003. Several months prior to my illness we decided to sell our house that we had lived in for seventeen years and move into a two bedroom apt. My husband was attending Southwestern Seminary at the time and we wanted to focus on his education. He had felt led to go back to school and become a marriage counselor.
     Life was good. We got that apt. in October of 2000. He was going to school and flourishing. I had started working full time at our church as our Associate Pastor's Assistant and it was very rewarding.We were in the midst of our Marriage Reconciliation Ministry that we had begun August 1, 1999. That, too, was very rewarding. As for me, for the first time in a long time I felt that we were truly in the center of God's will...and it felt good.
     Then came January 2001. It seemed to be immediate. I could hardly get out of bed. My body felt as if I had been run over by a Mack truck. I was so tired, all I wanted to do was lay down. I struggled to function. I was due at work at 8:00am and they started allowing me to come in at 9:00am. I could not get my body out of bed any earlier than 7:00am. It took me two hours just to eat and get myself presentable enough to go out in public. The apts. we had moved to were literally a field away from our church where I worked. You could see it from our apt., yet all but the few minutes it took to make the drive were just struggling to function to get there.
     I started going to my family doctor first. The first thing he offered me were anti-depressants. I don't know if it was because he knew my family history, (my father had schizophrenia) plus the fact that I did indeed face depression in 1994, but that was his first form of treatment. I wasn't sure myself if that, indeed was what was going on with me. When I was being treated for depression, all I wanted to do was to sleep and that was happening again. The anti-depressants only gave me a bad headache and did not relieve any other symptoms.
     In the meantime, I started seeing a godly counselor that was on staff at our church. She was so very helpful to me during that critical time. She did not see in me the emotional symptoms of depression and furthermore, having been depressed in the past, I knew what that felt like. I was not sad, I did not have a sense of hopelessness, I was looking forward to the new chapters God had opened up to us and I was indeed excited about our future. I was engaged in life and in lives around me. Yet, all I wanted to do was lay down. My counselor encouraged me to continue to go to doctors, which I did.
     My family doctor sent me to a  Rheumatologist April of 2001 and she is the one that gave me my first set of diagnoses. I had an autoimmune illness called Fibromyalgia. I had never heard of it. I found out pretty quickly that it is chronic and it is treatable, but not curable. The Rheumatologist also diagnosed me with Raynaud's Phenomenon and disc disease in my neck area. That was the beginning of our journey. I say "our" because when a person has a chronic illness, it not only effects them, but everyone around them. My immediate family, especially my husband, has been affected by it the most.
     So here we were...blind sided. Our options seemed pretty limited. Days, if not weeks would go by and to tell you the truth I seemed to be in a constant fog, yet I was continuing to try and work. It had taken four months for the doctors to reach a diagnosis. Once I had the diagnosis, it seemed evident that this was  probably not a temporary thing and decisions were needing to be made.
     Being that I worked at the church we had attended for twenty years and knew and loved everyone there, including the staff, made it very difficult. They had been more flexible with me than your ordinary employer would probably have been. There were days I would get to work late during those four months and they would send me directly home because they saw what I was going through. I will always be grateful to them for the loving way they treated me, especially since this was something none of us could fully grasp, let alone understand.
     Understand, I did not. I was so intent on fighting this thing at first and had looked on it as an attack of the enemy. I felt to give up on fighting it would be giving up on my faith in God and His power to heal me. This was a major clash I was facing. The fact of what this illness meant and the fact that God was, indeed bigger than this illness. I felt I had to choose one way or another and I was torn. I could not reconcile in my mind at that time that I could be going through this and accept it without the feeling that I let God down somehow.
     I have a little black Bible. By little, I mean one of those "baby sized" ones. It was given to me by my father when I was a teenager. While reading it one night during that time I came across John 9:1-3 which states; "As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but that the work of God might be displayed in his life." NIV
     It hit me. I was being so legalistic. Without realizing it, what was going through my mind during those four months was that we were in the center of God's will, we were being obedient as far as we knew to be, therefore, this should not be happening to me, therefore it was from the enemy. I was deceived. God was teaching me a lesson that I am still learning. I have a tendency to blame myself when things go wrong in my life, if I'm not careful. Our relationship with God is not based on our performance though, but on God and His gift to us.I didn't have to be a "good little girl" for God in order for Him to love me and accept me. Wow.
     These verses revealed to me that God was the one that allowed what was happening to me. It also revealed His purpose in allowing it. "that the work of God might be displayed in him." After reading these verses, I had a whole new perspective. God was the source and He had a purpose for it. I had not done anything wrong. In other words I was not being punished. That knowledge suddenly made it o.k. with me. It allowed me to reconcile my beliefs with my circumstances. Instead of asking God what I had done wrong, or blaming the enemy, I started asking how I could give Him glory through this experience.
     I resigned from work May 1, 2001 and started focusing on treatment. I attempted to work part time at the church after a few months, but was forced to resign again. That was in 2002. I have not attempted to work since that time. My new goals then became focusing on quality of life all the while giving glory to God.
     Through this experience I have met people I would never have met, had I not become ill. I have been put in circumstances I would have never thought of for myself, had this not occurred. In the years since 2001 I have been subsequently diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, Addison's Disease, Interstitial Cystitis, Osteoarthritis and slight Scoliosis in my lower back. I have had  Asthma since childhood. My immune system has apparently "left the building" as the saying goes! But, God (love that phrase). But, God has not "left the building." Nor will He ever leave it on me or on anyone else that truly seeks Him, and that is my "song" to Him.
     My husband stopped going to Seminary in 2001. I became his ministry. He sacrifices on a daily basis to make sure I am taken care of. His first thoughts are of God and then me and our family. We no longer have an ongoing marriage ministry. We do still have a passion for individuals facing a marriage crisis and we make time for anyone who seeks us out who is struggling.
     Chronic illness has affected us. As my husband says, Fibromyalgia is not life threatening, but it is life altering. That is true for any chronic illness. My husband left Seminary, we left our full-time ministry, I stopped working. Our life is not how we scripted it to be by this time in our lives. We temporarily forgot prior to 2001 who the author of our lives was and it isn't us.
     God is still writing new chapters for us, but this time He is the one doing the writing. God's grace is quite a concept. One I may never completely grasp. To think that the God of the universe loves us to the extent that He does is hard to comprehend. I don't know much, but I do know this; our life is much richer, much more fulfilling, much more rewarding than it was prior to 2001, thanks be to God.
     I am reminded of an evangelist that often came through and spoke at the church we attended during those years. His name was  Dave Busby  and he fought an ongoing battle with Cystic Fibrosis. He shared that from a hospital bed he once begged God to heal him and Dave said God's response was, "I can heal you but you give me more glory this way." Dave chose not to be healed and subsequently died in his forties. Why would Dave make that choice? I believe Dave wanted God more than He wanted his own life.
     Dave Busby lived out what Jesus Himself termed the greatest commandment in the law which was to "...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind..." Matthew 22:37  NIV  Dave Busby  left an example for those who were blessed enough to know him to follow.
     I want to be like Dave Busby. He understood that love requires sacrifice and he made the decision to make the sacrifice required to love God in a deeper way. I believe Dave Busby's "song" to God was "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain." Philippians 1:21  NIV.  I pray we make it our "song" to God as well.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blind Sided? He Knew, He Knows

It's good to be back! I've been on Grandma duty this past week and loved every minute of it! But, now I'm back! I've had the movie "Blind Side" on my mind the last several days for this post. I guess we all may receive different messages from the movie, depending on our life experiences, etc. For me, there were two moments in the movie I would like to share with you because they impacted me and hopefully will help me sing my "song" for your edification.

I looked up the definition of "blind side" in the dictionary, and I quote; "The side of a person opposite to the direction in which he is looking." New World Dictionary. Wow, the definition alone speaks volumes to me. Anybody else ever been "blind sided" in life? I think we all have. The side of a person opposite to the direction in which he was looking, man! The implications are numerous. The emotional, spiritual and even physical consequences can be life changing.

Here are my thoughts; First, I would like to share a moment in the movie in which Michael Oher is practicing on the football field. His mom, Leigh Anne Touhy, is watching on the sidelines and sees he's not doing well. She goes and  pulls him off the field and has a short talk with him in which she reminds him of  incidents in which he chose to try and protect his family. She told him to view his teammates as his family and that it was his job to protect them. BTW, Michael starts playing much more effectively after that. Afterward she goes up to his coach and tells him that he should really get to know his players and informed the coach that Michael scored in the 98th percentile in protective instincts.

When I hit that moment in the movie, my mind goes back to me as a young child. I am sitting in a car late at night with an older sister and younger brother in the parking lot of a restaurant. Seated in the next car over are my mother and her boyfriend and they are arguing. He grabs her head with both his hands and starts banging her head against the dashboard of the car. I remember yelling for him to stop, and he does, yet I am scolded for yelling out. That is the extent of my memory of the incident. EVERY time I see this point in the movie I flash back to that moment in my life.

You might ask, what would go through a small child's mind that would prompt them to do that. I'm not sure I can answer that. I just remember that something welled up inside of me and I had to do something. All I guess I knew to do was to yell at him to stop. It didn't seem to matter that I was a child and they were adults. I was not thinking of what the consequences would be for my actions...all I was thinking was my mother was being hurt and I had to do something about it.

I believe if I took the test that Michael Oher took, that I, too, would score very high in that category as well. I share this experience because I realized that the incident in the car that night, as traumatizing as it might seem for a child to watch, was an example of how God wired me and used all the experiences in my life to be used for my good and for His glory.

I have been "blind sided" more than once in my life, as I am sure you have been. The decisions we make during those times help define who we are and what we believe. It may seem to take more courage than we ever dreamed possible. This leads me to the second moment in the movie in which Michael is assigned a paper at school. In it he writes on the subject of courage, and I quote; "Courage is a hard thing to figure. You can have courage based on a dumb idea or mistake, but you're not suppose to question adults, or your coach or your teacher, because they make the rules. Maybe they know best, but maybe they don't. It all depends on who you are, where you come from. Didn't at least one of the six hundred guys think about giving up, and joining with the other side? I mean, valley of death that's pretty salty stuff. That's why courage it's tricky. Should you always do what others tell you to do? Sometimes you might not even know why you're doing something. I mean any fool can have courage. But honor, that's the real reason for you either to do something or you don't. It's who you are and maybe who you want to be. If you die trying for something important, then you have both honor and courage, and that's pretty good. I think that's what the writer was saying, that you should hope for courage and try for honor. And maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some too."

It's hard, life is hard and that's a fact. So, where does that leave us?  Leigh Anne Touhy knew her son...she knew him so well that she knew what motivated him to be the best that he could be. If a mother knows this, I believe our Heavenly Father, who formed us in our mother's womb, does too. He created us!

He knew that by allowing me as a child to be put into positions of choosing whether to try to protect those I love or not would help develop that desire that He Himself place inside of me when He created me. He knew that it would be a necessary trait for me to have when fighting for my family in 1992. He knew too, that in 2001, when being faced with a mysterious illness that, again, I would need to choose to fight not only for myself, but more times than not, more importantly to me, my family's well being. He was and is my Leigh Anne Touhy, reminding me of times past when I chose to try to protect my family and stand up for what I believe.

He knows what we need before we do. He knows what it's going to take to be victorious. He knows that the pain is there and He doesn't like it or enjoy it any more than we do, but He allows it. He allows it because He loves us. He loves us so much He allowed His only Son to die for us.

Michael Oher spoke of praying that the people telling us what to do have some courage and honor themselves. This is a good thing. A better thing is to then take it to God and allow Him to direct us and tell us what He wants us to do. In the process we will obtain honor and courage because we will be making decisions based on what we believe and in Whom we believe. The outcome will become irrelevant because if we base our decisions on Him and His Word, it be the best for us and for everyone we love.

I hope my last thought is a comfort to all of us. God is NEVER "blind sided". He is omniscient (all knowing), He is Omnipotent (all powerful) and He is Omnipresent (present in all places at the same time). He loves us.  He is glorified through us when we choose to follow His guidance. "Blind side" is not in His vocabulary. Amen. Now, that's something to "sing" about!


Thursday, May 17, 2012


For those of you who know us, you know that my husband and I are a reconciled couple. This year marks 20 years of reconciliation for us. 1992 was a rough year for us, to say the least...BUT (one of my favorite three letter words)...BUT...God is faithful! There were so many lessons learned and there is so much gratitude in our hearts for what we went through.

Fast forward to 1999 and to what I believe was God's calling on our hearts...ministering to individuals in marital crisis. God used what seemed to be an "out of control" escalation of couples being torn apart in our church by the ravages of divorce to prompt a deep desire in us to initiate the ministry. I frankly, was angry. I was angry that the enemy of God's sacred covenant of marriage was seemingly winning the battle. So, at first, I did what I do when my emotions are overwhelming...I wrote about it.

The following is what came of that time and actually became the springboard for us moving forward to starting a marriage reconciliation ministry at our church in August of 1999. It is titled, "Are We Greater Than Our Master?"  and is based on John 13:16 & 17 NKJ :

Whatever happened to "death do us part"?
Why is there a line we don't think we have to cross?
Why is it no sin to give up on one you love?
Why does no one else seem to care that this goes on?
What would happen if you refuse to let go of His promises?
Would you be willing to forgive?
Would you be willing to let go?
Would you be willing to never give up as long as you live?
('Till death do us part)"
Would you live a full life even though you're alone?
Would God meet your needs?
Is our purpose in life to have our needs met?
What lies have we believed for way too long?
What sacrifice would you make to save your family?
Do you really care?
Are your needs the focus of your unhappiness?
If God speaks to us thru our needs, is He saying, "Do 
whatever it takes to get those needs met!"?
Who says God's intent is that all of our needs be met all of 
Can your life be full when you have needs unmet?
Could it be that God knows what we need more than we do?
Why do we give up so easily?
Can you sense the anger I have?
Do you sense the grief of my broken heart?
Can you not see the MISSED blessings, miracles, healing, 
growth, intimacy, integrity and peace that only comes from
being obedient to the law of grace?
When was the last time you "resisted to the point of blood" 
against sin?  Hebrews 12:4, Philippians 2:8 NKJ
Is sacrifice required?
Would you go to Hell if you don't sacrifice?
Why sacrifice if salvation is assured?
Who do you love the most?
Do you love God that much?

If you see a sacrifice is required in order to be obedient to
your covenant with God, is God not giving you an 
opportunity to submit to that sacrifice? 
Will He stop loving you if you don't?
Will He love you more if you do? 
Will you stop loving Him if you don't?
Will you love Him more if you do?
Could sacrifice be a key to growing closer to God?
Who benefits the most from our sacrifice, us or God?
Jesus was willing to forgive, to let go, to never give up "to 
the point of death," why aren't we?
Did He live a full life?
Did He live it in vain?
Did God meet all of His needs?
Would it have stopped Him if God didn't?
Is He angry at our sin?
Is He faithful and righteous to forgive our sins?
Is He grieved over our disobedience?
By His stripes are we healed? I Peter 2:24  NKJ
(Copyright 2004)

In my mind and heart I knew that if God could work through us and save our marriage, then He could do it for others. I realized my biggest enemy, besides THE enemy, was losing hope during our crisis. Hope is a very fragile thing...if we base it on our circumstances.

Job 13:15a NIV states: "Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him."  We have to dig deep during those dark hours. We have to decide how committed to Christ we really are and to what we say we hold dear.

My prayer for you today is based on II Corinthians 5:16-21 NIV.  If you don't have a relationship with Christ to start with, then that is your starting point. Salvation is the reconciling gift that God gives us, but we have to accept that gift. Then, and only then, can we truly become the ministers of reconciliation that He has called all of us to be!

Until next time, remember this, God's Word is so powerful that it spoke the world into existence, He breathed and here we are!...Awesome. I'd say that's something to "sing" about! I pray that we allow that truth sink down into our soul the next time we are tempted to give up! 


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Hand of God

Here goes nothin' first post on my first blog! If you're reading this, thank you! I hope I encourage you in some way by my ramblings. I have so much to write, yet I can't seem to think of where to start...

First off, this blog has been a while in the making. I have had a desire to write in some form or fashion most of my life. I think maybe more for my sanity than for anything else. Writing is a form of release for has oozed out pain, the poison of unforgiveness, deep regret, godly sorrow, repentence, healing, joy, peace, acceptance, etc., etc. I could go on and on. It in some ways  has been a lifeline to me when I wasn't sure I was going to make it. I guess you could say we're old friends and we're getting older by the minute! As I look back, God was there, He was there through every heartbreak, every rebellious move I made...yet He loves me anyway. He's the one that provided the way of escape...pen and paper. I am forever grateful to Him. We have been through alot together, God & me, and I don't know much, but I know this...He is faithful and He is God and I am not. These truthes have saved my sanity many times over.

Right now, we "see through a glass darkly" as I Corinthians 13:12 states. It goes on to say one of my favorite three letter words when it comes to God's Word...BUT!  It states further "...BUT; then face to face; now I know in part; BUT then shall I know even as also I am known."  KJV  Truth is we may never have all the answers to why something takes place in our lives. It helps me to know that God does. It is my thinking that if God does know and He allows it, then it is for my good and His glory. I have come to realize that I am loved by God. Do I understand that? No. Why He would love me will always be a mystery to me. What I have come to do is accept it and embrace it. It isn't about what I believe about myself as much as what I believe about God that helps me make sense of this thing called life, I would stay in a miry pit otherwise. It was when Peter took His eyes off of Christ and looked at His circumstances that He started to drown in the sea. BUT, Jesus held out His hand as Peter cried out for His help and Jesus saved Him. Matthew 14:28-32.

In 1994 I experienced a "Peter" moment. I was in a counseling session and I was fighting depression. The counselor asked me what I usually did when I experienced pain and I said that I usually pictured myself being held by God. So, the counselor asked me to do that and I couldn't, all I could see when I closed my eyes was a picture of a robed Jesus standing and His back was turned to me. My counselor asked me to pray about it, so as I began to pray (my hands were literally digging into the armchair) and I was crying and I began to seek repentance and to tell God of my desire to come to Him, but all I could see in my mind was that picture of  Jesus with His back turned to me. I continued to cry and I remember telling God that I wanted to come to Him, but that I just couldn't...and that is when it happened! In my mind I saw a picture of a robed arm and the hand was extended to me. Well, I stopped at that point. My counselor was confused, he told me to go on. I then had to tell him that he didn't understand...I had just seen the hand of God reach down to me. I was unable to even reach up to Him, so He came down to me. Whoa! I was blown away. When I shared this with my counselor, he too, was blown away! We prayed and thanked God and the session was over. My healing began in earnest at that point and I have never been the same since, nor treated for depression since. That is my song, that is my God and He is yours too. I learned alot during those days, one of which is that our God is bigger than anything we may face in life. I have to remind myself sometimes, but all I have to do is look back on my "Peter" moment. We all have them, maybe not as dramatic as the one I just described, but anytime God reaches out to us, it is an awesome thing.

My prayer is that we allow more "Peter" moments in our lives...let's not stay in the boat and miss out on God's Holy hand reaching out to us!