Archive for the ‘Confessions from a Sick Bed’ Category


It depends on where your focus is.

Every year, right after school lets out for the summer, our church hosts a week long day camp called VBS. Or as we VBS 011affectionately call it “vibs.” In most parts, Vacation Bible School is a well known event among church goers. Children gather for a few hours and participate in Bible stories, crafts and maybe learning a few songs about Jesus loving us.

At our church, we believe that kids relate to fun so we make VBS hugely fun with an entire morning and afternoon production, sports games, crafts, special events — a climbing wall, bounce houses and a petting zoo (to name a few).

The kids are in age/gender teams and create banners, team cheers and close friendships. They spray water guns and fly down a zip line. Stories are acted out on stage in front of them and discussed during team time with their adult leaders and teen assistants.

It’s a week of special treats like the snack bar, snow cones and ice cream. Songs are sung with dancing and hand motions in an outdoor amphitheater with the words displayed on huge banners. A dance team worships the Lord, encouraging the kids to learn the moves and dance along. Bible Buddies, or B Buds, act out the verses for the day which all fit with the theme for the week.

Today is the our day and will end with an amazing barbeque and final production to give the parents a glimpse of what their children have experienced all week – the reason they are all smiles, dirt and good tiredness.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Did I mention that approximately two hundred volunteers donate their time, often their vacation time from work, to help make this event a success? From that first year I stepped into the role of “team leader,” I couldn’t imagine not helping with VBS.

But last year, I became ill and as we got closer to the event, I realized that my acting role that year was not going to happen. Others stepped in for me at the last minute, and I traveled out of state for some rest. I watched my husband and daughters perform online via live streaming. I missed it. And this year, while I’m better, I’ve still been sick.

I didn’t think I had the physical strength to participate.

And I didn’t have the energy to care. I decided I would stay home and pray. People asked what I would be doing.

Nothing this year,” I’d answer.

But one day a few weeks back, a friend made a simple request. The man directing traffic was desperately in need of help. Since my husband and I had been in charge of traffic a few years ago, my friend wondered if I would consider helping out at all. Even for a day or two. I didn’t think it would work, but I agreed to pray about it. After all, it would only be a couple of hours in the morning.

I said yes.

The traffic director said I made his day. Imagine that. Something so simple brought such joy to him. Monday I arrived in the fog with excitement stirring in my heart. I greeted cars and directed them to the appropriate places. God gave me the energy to run around even when an unexpected situation arose that required way more than I thought I had to give.

After I finished, I watched my daughter sing and dance, kissed my two grand kids and went home to rest. Tuesday I woke with a migraine, but since I felt better standing rather than lying down, I took some pain medication and headed off to VBS again. Within an hour, my head wasn’t threatening to explode anymore. During the singing and dancing, I held my grand daughter.

And so it continued. A few hours of  chatting with friends, welcoming strangers, and participating in song and dance with my grand children in the morning, and then I’ve rested in the afternoon.

It seems like I haven’t done anything much.

But something has happened to my heart. Each day as I’ve worshiped the Lord, waved to parents, cheered for my daughter, watched my son with his team and snuggled my grand kids, I’ve been infused with joy. Overflowing, tears pouring down my cheeks joy.

Nothing in my circumstances has changed. I’m still sick. Our finances are tight. My husband is battling with job issues. We still don’t know what to do about mold, and our landlord has raised our rent, but not made needed repairs. My son sprained his knee and got hit in the chin with a baseball. Life kind of stinks. As do the lives of many of the people I’ve been serving with this week. Illness, injuries, and tough life challenges abound.

But my focus changed this week.

What I see is different. A smile goes a long way to cheer someone. We are in this together, joined by Jesus and our trials. My daughter’s face radiates the joy of the Lord as she belts out worship songs and dances on stage in front of hundreds of kids and adults. Our son rejoiced when one of his friends accepted the Lord. I wake and go through my day with the lines from songs echoing in my head. Words like:

I know You love me. You are for me, not against me …You only think good thoughts about me.

Or

Take me. This is all I can bring. (this little bit of sick, weakness) I feel alive. I come alive. I am alive…

It’s ended up being a great week. I’m no more tired than usual, but my heart is far less heavy. And I’ve found that having joy in the midst of life’s difficulties all depends on our focus.

To check out our VBS FUN visit www.coastlands.org and find us on Facebook.

 

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The saga continues.

Almost five years ago, within months of becoming a newlywed, I began to feel sick. Flu like. Tired. Nauseated. Dizzy. Headaches. At first I wondered if I could be pregnant. I mean, it would have taken a miracle, but God had already done that putting Brendan and me together. We would have welcomed a baby.

I took a test. Negative.

That was okay. We had enough adjustments to make without adding a pregnancy and newborn to the list. But my “sickness” didn’t diminish. In fact, it became worse. We took a trip to Disneyland, and I had to be pushed in a wheelchair because I didn’t have the strength to walk or even stand in line. It was a little overwhelming and discouraging. And I became sicker. Until I could barely crawl out of bed on most days.

Eventually, we discovered we had mold growing in our house.IMG_4523

A lot of mold. One of the giveaways was how I would feel better when I was out of the house for long periods of time. When the landlord finally decided to address the issues we presented (mushrooms growing in the bathroom for example), they tore open a small section of the bathroom wall and discovered everything was covered in black mold. They tore out more, more mold, etc. Until the bathroom was gutted, as was the laundry and the floor under the kitchen. Many months of cleaning, a long story of homelessness and two years of a law suit later, we seem to have arrived in the same place.

Seriously?

For the first two years of living in our current house, I was finally becoming healthy again. Yay! Then, a year ago November my “illness” returned. I felt similar to that first year in what we “affectionately” call “the mold house.” But there were no visible signs. No musty smells. We had some leaking faucets and a pretty substantial crack in our shower that seemed a potential for mold, but with no clear evidence, we passed it off as winter colds, and me pushing myself too hard in a busy life. Stresses contributed. Family loss and troubles with a couple of our kids. You know. The usual stuff. But I became more ill. A plumber finally fixed the leaks and “sealed” the crack in the shower. Never mind the now obvious water marks on the ceiling below said shower. I became sicker. I started a symptoms log. In addition to the first illness symptoms, there were others. Awful itching, blistering rashes, choking congestion, stomach pain.

I went to doctors.

One said I had rheumatoid arthritis even though I had no common symptoms and blood tests were clear. More blood tests. No clear diagnosis. A friend recommended a naturopathic doctor who ended up being a life saver. Through diet, rest and supplements I began to feel like life was returning. But not fully. I can’t seem to get past the 75-80% mark. I still need a nap each day. I’m tired, dizzy and have headaches often. I can’t exercise or be around too many people at once without exhaustion setting in. Or if I can, I end up paying the next day.

Then our son broke out in a terrible rash.

With no known cause, he had hives from head to toe and ended up having an emergency room visit one night after vomiting, fainting and shaking. He now has to use an inhaler before exercise for allergy induced bronchial spasms. Our daughter became ill with sore throats and extreme fatigue (okay so she’s a teenaged girl, but still…). Brendan and I hated to think it, but the only common thread was the dreaded mold. Next door, construction of a new apartment complex had been going on since November where they had torn down a few very old buildings. Could that have contributed as well? Now we noticed two growing water stains on our bedroom ceiling…

We finally did mold testing last week.

I guess its good and bad when you hope for the answer to be positive for something. You hope to have an answer. But you dread the answer. We have mold growing in our house. No wonder we have all struggled this year feeling terrible. We’re still waiting for the detailed test results.

After hours of research, I found information about essential oils killing mold.

Natures Mold Rx by Dr. Ed Close, explained through numerous case studies how mold had been eradicated in buildings and homes by diffusing a blend of essential oils over long periods of time. I felt hopeful for the first in a long time. Within a week, I had two diffusers going – one upstairs and one down – in an effort to bring health to our home. At first, it seemed to help. After blasting our air for eight hours, we were breathing a little better. I stopped having choking fits at night. Our kids felt better. But then I quit running the diffusers all the time. I decreased it to a few hours, a couple of times per day. This week I’ve not felt well at all. Same symptoms again.

Discouragement set in.

As of this writing, we are wondering about moving. About how to deal with our landlord. Again. About cleaning our things and finding a house free of mold. It’s a daunting and exhausting situation. One that I keep reminding myself God has an answer for.

I’ve learned so much this past year and a half of illness. I’m grateful for all the Lord has taught me, shown me, and how I’ve learned to rest in him. But I’m also ready to move on. I long to be healthy and active again. To take a walk and make dinner without feeling done in. I thought this week of my blogger friend Bill, and wondered how I could even think of complaining when he has such an amazing attitude while being in his constant state of illness. He wrote a great blog recently about purpose. I’m thankful for the challenge in my perspective. I also want to act with wisdom where I can take steps in faith to act.

I write this because it has been hugely encouraging me to read about other people’s stories. To discover I’m not crazy, nor suffering alone. And to say thanks for being with me…

Have you experienced any of the same situations?

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It’s been a rough week.

Symptoms of illness have flared again, leaving me discouraged and depressed. In addition, current circumstances are less than desirable. Can I confess that as a result, I’ve been having a hard time getting excited about Christmas?

But God has a way of flipping my perspective. 

Two days ago, I sat on a massive piece of driftwood, looking out over the expanse of our beautiful bay. My friend and I talked, cried and prayed. As I gazed at the bay, I felt a whisper from God.  What if I have something deeper for you this year? Are you willing to ask? Look for it? Find it?

In the moment, I didn’t voice those thoughts, but as the past couple of days have unfolded, I’ve come back to that moment.

What does Christmas mean this year? DSC_0002

It’s never really been about the materialism. Our family focuses most on the birth of Jesus, and our gift giving is a reflection of all he’s given us. But each year I find God digging deeper in my heart to turn up a nugget of spiritual gold; a treasure beyond even the best intentions of the season.

Last year, I was struck by Emmanuel – God with Us.

Everywhere I turned; the message danced around my head and evidenced itself in numerous ways. I needed God with me, and I knew with great confidence that he was. His presence was imperative to my existence and well-being so he showed up all over my life. His assurance dogged me this year.

What does he have for me this year?

I’m asking, seeking, contemplating. I expect it will hit me with a suddenness that will produce a rush of revelation and tears. And because of this anticipation, my heart toward the coming holiday has done an about face. Today, a seemingly impossible situation that unexpectedly changed reminded me that my God can do the unbelievable in a matter of moments. And nothing will be the same.

I remembered the words of James “…you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (4:14) In a moment, everything could change.

Waiting for that moment with anticipation this Christmas.

 

What about you? What does Christmas mean when you look deeper?

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That is a good question.

Anyone who’s ever been sick thinks of getting well. And as Christians who follow a Savior known as the Healer, we pray for it, claim it andDSC_0128 stake our faith on it.

But what happens when healing doesn’t come?

Or at least, not healing as we’d like it.

It’s been almost a year since I began feeling consistently unwell. This is the second year since my husband, Brendan, and I have been married. Two yearlong illnesses in less than five years. Not quite how I envisioned our newlywed life.

I can point at all the underlying issues: mold, stress, a driven way of life; but I also still believe God holds my health as well as my life in his hands.

He can heal instantly.

I’ve experienced him healing me a few times pretty much within minutes of someone praying for me. But I’ve also struggled with illness for more than a few weeks. He has healed my emotional wounds both in the moment I realized them and asked, and in decades of slow motion. I’ve known people who have been healed from debilitating diseases like cancer, and those who have died from them. All those folks believe God is sovereign and holds their life as precious and valued.

So what gives?

Here are my current conclusions:

  1. God cares most about our relationship with him. We are spiritual beings living in a physical world—someday purposed to spend eternity with him. While he cares immensely about our illness, wounds and brokenness, he most cares how it will draw us and others closer to him, and show him to those who haven’t yet met him. Is my illness bringing me closer to the Lord? Absolutely. I have a friend who suffers from a life-long illness. He claims he is a different person as a result, and while he would love to feel well all the time, he is grateful for the way God has used his illness to change him. I’m grateful too. For both of us.
  2. God wants to heal us. And he will. Whether today, in two months or in heaven, we will all be whole and with new bodies someday. The question isn’t whether God can or will, it’s what will I do with my illness in the meantime? Continue to ask for healing, while asking what I can learn in the process. Look to the Lord for what is most important today. Thank him for whatever he is using my illness to accomplish. I must keep focused on the good, the positive, the hopeful, all the way to the grave whenever that day comes. I can easily get discouraged from day to day based on whether I feel well or not if I don’t keep my eyes and heart on Jesus.
  3. Sometimes well-meaning people don’t see the big picture. Remember Job’s friends? I have to be willing to listen to advice, but ultimately God is my leader. I have to keep asking him what he wants for me in each given day, or hour or sometimes moment. I can’t do something because I’m concerned about what other people will think.                                                                                                      Last night I planned on attending an event at our church. I wanted to be there to serve, support my family, see my children and grandchildren, and interact with my church family; but midway through the day, I knew I shouldn’t go. I prayed, hoping the little nudge I felt to stay home and rest was imagined. But the more I wrestled over it with the Lord, the more I knew the answer. I kissed my husband and children goodbye and curled up with a bowl of veggie soup, praying for the event to make people feel safe and welcomed by the Holy Spirit on a night filled with evil. I worried briefly about what others might say about my not being there. I felt a little sad to not partake of the creative way our church campus was transformed into an adventure in space. But I knew I was where God wanted me. Resting and praying.
  4. I want my time of being ill to glorify God. My faith has been so strengthened and encouraged by people who have battled or continue to battle in the face of terrible illness or heartbreak—most far worse than mine. When I see the way those people carry on, loving Jesus with abandon, trusting him with each moment of each day even in the pain and tears, I feel empowered. I feel the spirit of God. Thank you Jo, Jeff, Margaret, Ashli, Dabney, Bill, Brian, Jen, Pamela, Ariana, Sharon, and so many others. Your lives testify of God’s goodness in the midst of a broken world.

I don’t have all the answers. I haven’t been fully healed—yet. But God is good and is teaching me to be more like him. Isn’t that the point?

 
If you disagree with me, or have some of your own conclusions, I’d love to hear about them.

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God is speaking.197

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear God as if, say, he were a friend across the table having coffee?

When you’re up against a big decision or even feeling a bit lost in life, wouldn’t it be great to have the creator of the universe, the one who knows everything about everything whisper a little direction or positive encouragement?

I think sometimes we expect God should boom at us in a commanding voice. Or maybe we feel as if his caring about us in any personal way is absurd—after all, if he is there, why would he want to speak to me? Perhaps we don’t really believe there is a God at all. The Big Bang Theory seems to handle the question for us, even if we’re not clear how the matter got there in the first place.

But what if God exists, does care and wants to say something?

To you. And me.

Remember the 1977 movie with John Denver and George Burns  titled “Oh, God!”? Theology aside, the film’s premise is that God wants us to know he is there.

He speaks to us.

Not only in a handful of movies, like Evan Almighty, but in real life. Yours and mine. He loves us. He wants good for us. And he tells us about it every day in a variety of ways.

It may sound a little crazy, but I hear from him every day.  No, I’m not some super saint with special powers and an “in” with God. But I take it seriously when he claims that we can ask him things, and he will answer.

For example, he tells us that if we lack wisdom, we have only to ask, and he will give it to us. The Bible reminds us that he thinks differently than we do, but if we choose to believe in him and acknowledge him as the one who saves us, we will be given “the mind of Christ” by his Spirit.

Sounds good to me!

If he spoke to Adam, Eve, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Mary and numerous others, why wouldn’t he speak to you and me? He longs for a personal relationship with us and that means communication, right?

Well then, how does he speak?

These are the ways I’ve heard him:                                                                      DSC_0006

  1. Through creation—it never fails that while I quietly marvel at the ocean, a bird, trees or flowers, a new born baby or even my son’s ball python, some amazing revelation or connection to my life gets whispered into my thoughts.
  2. Circumstances—so many times situations work out or don’t in a specific way that I couldn’t have orchestrated. Generally, this occurs when I’ve asked God for direction or to work out something that seems impossible. Like a window opening in a dark room, light floods in and a path is clear where nothing could be seen previously.
  3. Other people—I make it a point to ask trusted people for advice. God can speak through anyone he chooses, not only those who believe in his existence. It amazes me how God uses another person’s words to answer a question or give me direction or encouragement. A deep sense of “rightness” settles in my heart. Often, God is the only one who could have known what I needed to hear.
  4. The Bible—you knew that was coming, didn’t you? God says his word is alive and does things when we read it, share it and live it. I’ve experienced being in places of turmoil, confusion, lethargy and discouragement and felt prompted to read a particular section from the Bible. God transforms me as I let the words penetrate my heart.
  5. God’s voice—yep, you read that right. I often hear him whisper to me. I want to hear him so I sit very quietly and meditate on how wonderful he is. I tell him how I feel about things. I ask him to help me, to speak to me, to guide me. I wait and listen. And he does. Not a booming voice, but a tiny whisper in my heart. Not an accusing, condemning one, but a peaceful, settling whisper.IMG_4078

He wants to be there for us. He has good things to say. I believe he wants to speak to everyone.  Why don’t you ask him?

When have you heard God? I’d love to hear from you about it.

Some verses for reference: James 1:5-6; I Corinthians 2:9-16; Matthew 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:8-11; 2Kings 19:11-12; Psalm 103

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I began getting sick more easily last November.

And it seemed to take longer than usual to shake it off. By January, I had been sick two more times and still felt under the weather. An unexplained rash began taking over my body with painful itching. At first, I didn’t make any connections. Stress governed my life due to family pressures, a beloved friend losing her baby, my grandmother passing and my push to sell myself to an agent. I assumed sleep would take care of my health issues. That is, if I could get any.

During the Mt Hermon Writers Conference, I silently itched and couldn’t sleep for the pain. But, after meeting with an agent who had some great ideas for me, I put my goals in place and plowed into my writing and marketing plans. Within a couple of weeks, the rash on my fingers had turned into painful, oozing blisters. My hand was so swollen I couldn’t type. Complete exhaustion prevented me from speaking a cohesive sentence let alone putting one in a book.

It was difficult to drag myself out of bed at all.

After numerous tests, the bottom line is a depressed immune and adrenal system – the result of a variety of issues. One of which is the driven, non-resting me that ties my worth to my productivity as a person, wife, mother, educator and writer. In the furthest recesses of my heart, what I do and how I perform dictate my value. Oh, my head knows this isn’t true. Jesus loves me based on who I am, not what I do or don’t do.  A recent read of Embracing Grace by Daniel Brown, PhD,  reminded me that God’s love is unconditional and complete. But sometimes my broken places scream otherwise. Especially when my defenses are down because of external or physical stress.

Here are a few things God’s been showing me:

  1. As I admired the amazing diversity of God’s creation on a recent trip to Florida, I was struck by a whisper of God to my heart.  “Just as my creation praises me by being what I created it to be, so are you my creation and praise me by your existence. I delight in you simply because you are.” Wow! DSC_0018Really? Still wrapping my mind around that one.
  2. Rest is more spiritual than physical. Yes, I need to get enough sleep. But on my vacation, during which I basically slept or lounged all day, every day, the Lord showed me that my soul wasn’t at rest which was just as exhausting as not sleeping enough. I’m trying to grasp that I can be still because God is God and has everything under control. He says “I have everything you need. Relax. I’ve got your back.” I am finding peace by spending time each day in his presence—simply sitting and listening for his voice. I’ve read Psalm 23 about 100 times. Really.
  3. I need to listen to what God says. Not agents or bloggers or other authors (no offense to all you wonderful, wise writers out there). I was crazily trying to learn everything and do it all even as it shifted from week to week. Knowledge is helpful. God tells us to “get knowledge.” But God will lead my steps. His direction may or may not fit with the “101 Steps to Getting Published.” Therefore, I need to be selective with what I read (I do not have time or energy for all of it, even if it’s good advice), and I need to submit it to God to see if it fits with his plans for me. He’s the one who can make his good plans for me happen. I got off track. It’s easy to do.
  4. Reacting to others or circumstances rather than seeking God first sends me into emotional overload and gives the enemy a place to attack. Instead, whenever I start freaking out inside, I’ve been trying to ask God, “What do you say about that?” Sometimes it takes some sorting out the truth from the lies that swirl through my mind. Today my husband reminded me that whenever the thought I hear accuses or belittles me, it isn’t my thoughts or God’s about me. Satan hates me and wants me to hate myself. He is the one who tells me lies.

I’ve been learning  so many great things. And while I’d rather have God heal me miraculously, I believe this has been the better way. Of course, God knew that.

And now I need to get to bed :)

Perhaps you can relate to feeling overwhelmed or exhausted because of an urgent driven place inside. Would you be willing to share your experiences?

 

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