The loneliness of sickness

I consider myself to have an amazing life. I feel so blessed with the best husband I could ask for, good friends and family; support and kindness surrounds me, never lacking in wise counsel and always a friend who I can call if I need comfort.

But even with all that I have to be grateful for, sometimes I feel a a twinge of loneliness in my soul–like I have in recent days.

I know I often like to share wisdom and encourage others, just because it is one of my giftings; but I also have my difficult days too. Those days when I’m just not sure how this health journey I’m on is all going to wind up. My mind starts straying a little too far to the dark side and fear attempts to creep in, like an unwanted enemy in my home, trying to come in and stir up chaos.

I commented to my husband today as it hit me during an emotional phone conversation I was having with him, where I said, the hard thing about dealing with physical issues is that I’m really good about mentally separating myself from emotional pain and being positive. But sometimes, I’m just not sure what to do with the physical pain and hardship! I can’t think it away or talk myself out of it. It’s very real and it’s very tangible. And very hard to deal with. I’m still trying to figure all that out, honestly.

But I did have a revelation about myself this week: that if I can’t trick myself into feeling ok physically, which is obviously impossible,  I can attempt to trick others. All subconsciously, of course. Maybe trick is a bad word, but we’ll go with that for now. If I can convince others that I’m ok and that I feel fine and I’m not physically struggling (even when I may not be feeling great), they treat me just like anyone else and then I am better able to trick my own brain into keeping up appearances. It feels good to pretend sometimes. I want to feel healthy and strong, and be treated as such.

Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it? But hear me out.

Dealing with sickness is so so hard, on many levels. No one willingly signs up for this. We all want to feel good, and I’m doing everything in my power to do just that. I’m trying hard to lead a fairly normal life with my husband traveling frequently for work right now and 2 kids that I want to spend time with. So it brings a sense of desperation to me when I’m doing all I can within our financial situation to get help that I need, doing countless hours of research on my own, talking with doctors about next steps, trying to take the right supplements and even down to following this very strict AIP (Auto Immune Protocol) diet to help lower inflammation for the last 3 months, and yet, I still don’t feel good lately. Talk about fighting a sense of powerlessness, hopelessness and frustration because I can’t seem to get my own disease under control. It can feel like a lot of pressure.  Yes, I do feel well sometimes depending on the day,  but it hit me today that the last 13 months has been one thing after another as far as MS symptoms go. It’s been a challenging ride for me.

I think the struggle then in processing all of this is how easy it can be to isolate myself in that area and not talk about my difficulties. It can be hard to be honest, with myself and others. I don’t want to feel like I’m being labeled or to have people worry about me since they know I struggle. I want to feel strong. I  also sometimes just don’t want to think about it, and then I can temporarily pretend like it’s not happening. It is just a painful topic accompanied by tears, many times.

And in those moments, I try to carry the burden alone; until it gets too heavy.  It is then, in that place of isolation, that I’m reminded I need to process things more, with God first (which I’m not so bad at) but especially more with others. To let them into my pain, my heartache, my journey. To not try to carry the load alone.

One of the last straws for me today that hit me about my situation was the realization that I’m literally just trying to stay out of a wheelchair. I’m doing everything in my power to fight it.

But on days like today where my legs felt weak when I woke up this morning and began to attempt to walk around, where I could feel numbness and tingling creeping up them again as well as in my hands, I had a scary moment where I wondered if this all is a lost cause. If I really am going to beat this.

What a scary conversation to have in my head. And please don’t tell me that I’m thinking negatively. This is the possible reality that I’m dealing with, and I’m trying to be honest with myself, although I hope and believe that will NOT happen.

The last two times I’ve seen my new neurologist, he was shocked I’m not currently using a cane and that I’m still walking so well. And then, after seeing how my MRI looked from this last spring with 6 new additional lesions added to all the scarring I already have on my brain from precious episodes, he just shook his head and commented in wonder and disbelief, “you just keep bouncing back”. He doesn’t know how. But I do. 🙂

So as you can see, the odds feel stacked against me right now even though I am obviously currently defying them. I shouldn’t be walking as well as I am, if at all, but God is greater. He has the final word on my health. I am grateful that I get around as well as I do. Health is such a gift that is easy to take for granted until you lose it. Don’t ever take it for granted.

I pray I do keep bouncing back. That all the dreams that I have and am currently working on will not be in vain. That I will be able to accomplish all the desires that God has placed in my heart. I still believe in miracles. I have seen too much to not believe. I know he is able and willing. And so, I continue to pray that God will heal me, and I know so many of you pray for me too. It lifts my spirits more than you know.

But at the same time, I am learning to accept where I’m at–to find peace and solace even in this storm I’m in the midst of. To not kick and scream about what I want but to continue to discover that I find God in this brokenness, the brokenness of my body. He reminds me that I don’t need to strive, but to lean into him. His ways are so much higher than mine.

I want to end with this thought: If you know someone that is sick, check on them every once in a while. It can be such a lonely road. It’s not fun to talk about, but the burden needs to be shared. It truly does lighten the load for another.

Thank-you so much for your prayers.

Side note: After much prayer, consideration and urging from my neurologist because of the advancement of my disease, I am trying a medication soon, in addition to all the other things I’m doing. Please pray this is a successful addition to my protocol.

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Thirty Five through my eyes- a reflection

I  am still in a bit of disbelief that I’m turning 35 this weekend, tomorrow to be exact. I told a friend last night that it just seems so unbelievable because in my head, I’m still 25 years old—although at times, my body has felt to be about 75 years old or more, due to my disabilities and limitations I have dealt with.

But, as I think back over everything I have learned during many different seasons of life in the last 34 years, there are so many things I would have loved to tell the younger me, but here are just a few:

  1. The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. It’s easy to think you have it all figured out in your teen and twenties, but by the time you’re in your thirties, you may realize just how much you still have to learn and understand about life. This is a good sign of growth. It shows humility, grace and just how far you’ve come. Always keep learning and always stay teachable. 
  2. Face your fears. Don’t ignore them, don’t run away from them, run straight into them. I know this may sound absolutely crazy right now but in time you will understand. Facing my fears has been the best thing I’ve ever done. There have been times I want to laugh when others call me brave, because I have felt just the opposite of that–scared to death. So many times I have had to do the next scary thing while shaking in my boots, and wondering how it was going to turn out. And the amazing thing? That place is where I have found God’s grace and faithfulness in my life. I have discovered that if I put God in a box and am unwilling to face my fears, he is so limited and unable to do all that he wants to do in my life. BUT, if I take the risk, face my fears and am obedient to the next thing God is asking me to do, no matter how scary,  I discover again and again so much more of who God really is and who I am too. Be strong and courageous and take the next step, no matter how scary it looks. God will meet you there, and you will not walk alone.
  3. You will have some very hard days.  There will be days of pain, of grief and sheer agony over your life as your walk your journey of life. Getting diagnosed with MS may be one of the hardest things you will face. Allow yourself space to grieve, to weep and to reflect on the life you had hoped you would have. This is the space you will need to heal. You cannot heal if you do not grieve. The amazing thing is, God is not afraid of our grief or our questions, so don’t be afraid to ask them. He sees the beginning from the end and know each of our days already, so he is not afraid of our future. You don’t have to be either. 
  4. You will know deeper joy than you ever imagined.  Sometimes I wonder if I would appreciate joy in my life as much as I do, if I hadn’t walked through the valleys. I think the valleys really do make us appreciate the hills in life–the good days. Learn to look for joy on the hardest of days and you may be surprised at all the little joys that eventually equate to big amounts of joy. God is constantly bringing joy in our places of grief so don’t overlook it.  Supernatural joy will carry you through whatever you face.
  5. Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate. Because life can be hard, celebrate everything you possibly can. Even the smallest, most insignificant of things, because the focus is the celebration, no not the event. It will help keep your heart light and take some of the focus off of the hard places in life, as least temporarily, as you celebrate good things happening in your life. It can be a powerful reminder of joy in our lives and build the anticipation of all God will do will do in your life even if you do not yet see it.   Celebration is a powerful antidote for sadness and grief.
  6. End each day with a grateful heart. The act of gratitude will change your life. I had no idea when I began implementing intentional thankfulness into my life, how it would change me. The more I began to look for things to be thankful for, the more I discovered I had to be thankful for and now it is just naturally overflowing. I only wish I had began sooner!  Younger me, find that thankful heart as quickly as you can, because it truly does equate to a beautiful heart, a soft heart that God can easily mold and shape for his purpose. It will leave you overflowing with joy.

As I look back and reflect, I never dreamed I would walk this life-long road of heartache, physical pain and disability at times, but yet so much accompanying joy in the journey all due to the fact of the beautiful God who walks beside me. So I say a tearful and glad adios to all that I’m leaving behind, and an arms-open-wide welcome to all that 35 holds for me! New seasons, new joys and new adventures walking with my savior.  The best is yet to come!

Peace In The Midst Of Terror

There are moments in our lives that we find out later were a turning point, a change of what we value and what we find out we desperately need.

I have had such a turning point in my life as I have faced something I have never before faced…..

Horrible anxiety and sheer panic, with full-blown panic attacks.

Anxiety and panic are two words that get tossed around a lot in our society, and I unfortunately was probably pretty quick to dismiss them because I didn’t have an understanding of them to be able to really comfort the person who was using those words. I didn’t know what a difficult journey it is, or understand the sheer terror that can attempt accompany panic and anxiety.

Until now.

I began feeling panic and anxiety for the first time when I did my last steroid treatment in April. I figured it would all let up when I was finished with my IV and oral treatments that I had been doing to treat an MS episode, so I just continued to try to ride it out and attempt to manage it.

But then things began to increase over the last 6 weeks, and in moments when I would least expect it, sheer terror would try to come wrap itself around my heart and mind.

One time was sitting in a church service, another would be when I walked into a room filled with people, and then sometimes sitting in traffic when I would begin to feel trapped and like I couldn’t get out. There were becoming countless moments like this.

I have never even felt any of these things in my whole life until this! I have been a carefree, fun-loving, excited, people-person to the core. I love social situations, crowds, all of it.  But all of this agony had really began to threaten to steal my joy, to cause me to be afraid to go places, to be in my car where I had my first full-blown panic attack.

Even with all of my scary phsycial health issues I have faced, having issues of the mind has been far more challenging. 

Having the ability to pray and talk myself out of fear, anxiety and dread of things to come as I face the challenges of dealing with MS has been key to my success in dealing with this disease, but now with this new issue of having moments of feeling completely out of control in my mind has been a game changer and left me feeling very fragile for a time.

From what I’m learning, I believe we can get to these points in our live for many reasons-whether it be ongoing stress that becomes too much of a load for our physical minds and bodies to bear, hormonal imbalances or chemical changes from medicinal drugs, not being able to deal with issues in our lives and they begin to take over us mentally and emotionally, etc. It can be different for each person.

But for me, I believe the steroids impacted me and along with causing adrenal fagitue, caused a chemical imbalance that I am now working to correct.  The hard thing though is, now that I’ve felt this kind of anxiety and panic and I know how bad it can get, I have been dealing with fear of having it creep in again.

My first (and last, I am praying) panic attack I had was when I was sitting in the carpool lane at my child’s school.

I was reading an encouraging christian blog post on my phone while I waited for school to let out, and it came out of nowhere, full blast. Waves of terror swept over me, as my heart started racing and I began shaking badly. I felt this desperation to get out of the carpool line to go grab some food which I had seen in the past helped me when I was able to balance my blood sugar. Unfortunately I was stuck and felt so alone sitting in that line, with nowhere I could go, no one I knew around me and no coping methods within my reach. I had my car door open and in my panicked state, I was ready to run to someone else’s car and beg them to help me, or the other alternative I had seen was off to my right, an open field, where I had pictured myself jumping out of my car and running through that field, just to get away.  I know it may sound crazy now, but if any of you have dealt with panic attacks, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Our brains are amazing and want to protect us at any cost, and mine desperately wanted to do just that in that moment, even at the risk of causing me to look like a totally lunatic. It my moment of that sheer terror, I knew all I could do was pray. I knew I must.

I remember praying out loud, “In the name of Jesus, I command this to stop.” And I said that same powerful prayer out loud three times in a row, and then the most amazing thing happened–as quickly as it had started, it stopped.  I remember the exact second the panic stopped, and I felt this calm and peace wash over me. As I tried to orient myself again, I wondered if I had imagined all of this happening. But as I felt my heart racing and my hands tingling almost to the point of no feeling at all from the adrenaline pumping through my system, I knew I had not imagined any of it. I knew that I had not imagined seeing the power of prayer in my life, in that moment. That I had been encountered by a God that does not leave us alone in our darkest moments, but who is so faithful to come and rescue us.



I reached out to my holistic doctor in my desperation the day after that panic attack and cried my eyes out in his office. I was too scared to even be home alone, and so afraid to ever feel again what I had experienced the day before.  He prescribed some supplements for me; things like magnesium and gaba, among others, but I also had to make some changes in my life.

Sometimes, what can feel like the hardest thing we’ve walked through can also be an invitation to something divine if we’re willing to look for it. 

I have now made some new choices in life and I have found my priorities changing as a result of my desperation.

I now value peace and tranquility in my life like I never have before.

It took walking through this experience for me to see and understand how important peace really is, and that God truly desires each of us to have it. I believe it’s one of the marks of the christian life, to be able to walk in peace and to have a calm about us that is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit. I used to love the rush and feel of excitement, and while I still enjoy it, I am valuing stillness in my life, more than ever.

It has caused me to slow down in life and not try to rush ahead of what God has for me, but to learn to be still and know that He is God.

I have also began to memorize more scripture as of late that I pray over myself and repeat over and over if I feel the fear of terror try to creep back in to my heart.

I have now began cutting back tremendously on my caffeine, and I barely drink one cup of coffee or tea at all.

And I am also learning to manage my schedule better and not get too busy, but make sure I have times of stillness and margin in my life.

In addition, I am also making sure that I sleep enough and maintain a good diet that can help my body and mind heal.

I am looking back now and seeing through all of this that God is at work.

He is teaching me his ways in the most undesirable of situations, showing me that he truly is powerful over anything we face  in our lives, and he is so faithful to give us keys to fight back in the most effective ways possible. He is teaching me to depend fully and completely on him and not on anything I know and understand in my life.

As I have shared my story with friends recently, I have been shocked that so many have walked this same road. It breaks my heart to think of anyone else facing the same things I have, and so I share my story in hope that it will encourage someone and give you hope that you can also make it past this point of despair.

I believe that brighter days are ahead, and this is not the end of our stories.

God has created us for so much more than to live in a place of panic and fear, and I pray that you will find the same peace that I have found. I’m still journeying through it, but I am grateful to now have some tools to know how to overcome–day by day, even moment by moment, if necessary.

As always, please contact me if you would like me to pray with you;  and know that you are not alone in whatever you are facing! 

 

In closing, here are some scriptures that have helped me to overcome my recent fears:

Isaiah 26:3- You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Psalm 112:7- They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.

Psalm 18:28-29- You, Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns my darkness into light. With your help, I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.

Psalm 27:13-14- I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.

Psalm 46:10- He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Proverbs 3:5-6- Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

Romans 12:2- Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Philipians 4:8- Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Defying The Odds (Health update)

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(I’m working on a more lengthy blog post that will be out shortly, with lots more great detail about my MS journey for anyone interested, but just wanted to update you all briefly!)

Thank-you so much for your prayers and outrageous kindness and support for the last 4-6 weeks on my journey with MS! I truly have no sufficient words for how much it has encouraged and blessed myself and my family.

The steroid infusions I did were over-all very successful! Reduced side effects while on treatment (a HUGE answer to prayer!) and only a couple of weeks of being on the couch feeling terrible.  I have more feeling in my torso, my right arm, feet and hands! I’m also getting eyesight back in my right eye. I have almost no weakness in my right hand and my legs. These things are HUGE! They may not sound that significant but it can truly hard to be a 34 year old mom and wife when dealing with something like this. I’ve had a couple of nerve-wracking setbacks in the last 2 weeks but still at a better place than I was before.

So, I had a visit with my new Neurologist last Monday and I’ve been processing the visit for the last week now, trying to find the words.

I guess I’ve done such a good job separating my identity from the sickness I deal with that it was shocking to hear yet another neurologist tell me how serious and aggressive my MS is. I was struggling to fight back tears in his office as I struggled to believe this is my life, my current reality. It felt like he should be saying these words to someone else besides me.

It was quite amazing though to note his surprise after that, when he inquired and I told him I don’t even currently own a cane that I need to use, since I had spoken of all the serious flare-ups I’ve dealt with over the last 8 years.

He then asked me to walk across the room to evaluate my walking ability. After that, he asked me to stand on one leg to check my balance. I wish you could have seen the shock on his face when he saw my walking ability and my balance. He remarked, “What a blessing that you are still able to walk so well.” I could tell it was unexpected. That I should probably be dealing with a lot more disability at this point, especially with all of the scarring I have already accumulated on my brain and spinal cord.

I am so grateful that my life is defying the odds! That I am doing things that aren’t expected with all I’ve been through!

God is so amazing, and even though I have been sitting in this strange tension of sadness of my reality, I also have hope and encouragement to see that God is protecting my ability to walk for now, even in the midst of an aggressive disease! So many times in my life I have seen where God doesn’t always answer our prayers like we might expect.

Maybe he doesn’t deliver us OUT our painful situations, but He is faithful to deliver us THROUGH them!

I am seeing him walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death, the very places I’ve been so afraid to go, and now I’m in the middle of it all. And just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He is protecting me in the midst of my fiery den. (Go read their story in Daniel chapter 3 if you need additional encouragement for your situation!)

No, my situation hasn’t been necessarily ideal, and yes, I have suffered in other ways and dealt with other physical pain even though I am still able to walk at this point, but the fact is, that God is with me.

If his presence is with us, we can face anything.

I look back on my life in the last 10 years, and I am astonished at the changes and growth  I’ve seen in my life. I would not be the person I am today if I had not walked this road, and dealt with all the pain and fear I have had to face. I wouldn’t have chosen it by any means but I wouldn’t change it either.

I’m so grateful that I have allowed the Lord to use my hardship to make me a better person, and that I am able to have eyes to see the miracles he is doing even in the middle of this hard place. I don’t believe this story is over yet….and I believe I will continue to see his goodness in my life.

The same can be for all of us! God is writing a story in each of our lives, and we get to make the choice today– to fight our circumstances and hardship or find a sweet place of surrender. We can ask God what he is doing in our situation and and what does that look like to surrender to him?

I’m determined to find his goodness, because it is there–sometimes we just have to look a little closer. He is always working on our behalf, even on the hardest of the days we face.

I pray you are able to find the faithfulness of God in the midst of your story. May you sense his presence with you on whatever road you walk. He is a faithful God and he always keeps his promises.

Ready, Set, JUMP

Well, here I go again starting early this morning:

 3 days of Solu-Medrol infusions. And then, a week or so of tapering steroids.

If I’m counting correctly, I believe this is my 5th time I’ll have be receiving these infusions since getting diagnosed with MS in 2007.

I always hope and pray I never have to do these again because I have such adverse effects but I recognize also that it is a necessary evil that can help pull me out of a flare-up, and the current one I’m in has gone on toooo long and is intensifying in it’s attack on my immune system.

For the time you have such an insanely high amount of steroids in your system (500mg for me this time, to see if I tolerate it better than the 100mg normally used), your body is no longer in control. The steroids have full control over your functions. My point? The choice to use this therapy to tame a relapse is not one that I enter into lightly and without a lot self education on the risks. But for me, the benefits far outweigh the risks. I need to reverse the damage that is happening, before I potentially cause more scarring on my brain and spinal cord. So here I am. Again.

At my exam at my neurologist’s office this morning, they confirmed that my left leg is weak, and the flareup is effecting my whole right side. It’s hard to type with all of the numbness in especially my right hand and I’m quickly losing strength to grip things in that hand as well. The numbness also impacts my mid section and leg as well. It is terrifying to feel the disease creeping into more and more regions of my body and mind, attempting to take over, even though I’ve gone through this quite a few times over the last 10 years.

I’ve been dealing with on-going issues now since getting off of Tysabri just over a year ago, which is an immune-supressing drug for MS, and it can really be a challenge for our immune systems to bounce back from something that has been suppressed.

God is always teaching me so much in the midst of these dark places:

-that he is absolutely trust-worthy, at all time, and he will never leave me or forsake me.

-that my seemingly endless buckets of tears lately don’t make me a wimp; braveness is formed by doing the things we’re so afraid to do, but doing it anyway.

-that I am NOT A FAILURE for not being able to control my disease at times. I’ve bought too easily into the failure lie again lately. It will really trip you up, let me tell ya. I’m realizing that is a lie to distract, because the truth is, God doesn’t see me as a failure. He only  longs for my surrender, and he does the rest. And that is what I offer him.

I have never considered myself a control freak but I’m realizing, we all are in different areas of our lives. I have wanted to control my health (for good reasons, of course) and do everything in my power to impact this disease in a positive way. Knowing the emotional, mental and physical pain of these drugs, I have waited for quite a while to do these infusions. I have also been leaning on what I know and understand….but the truth is, there are always things I can’t know and understand. I have been so afraid to touch these drugs again also because in my mind, that is failing, along with being scared of the pain it may cause me. But God has asked me to do the very thing I’ve been afraid to do; to trust him and not try to understand it all. Now is the time to jump.

So that is what I do. This is the journey of faith. This is where the growth happens. In the dark places. In the scariest of moments. Trusting him with my very life and letting go of my own understanding.

Thank-you so much for your thoughts and prayers for our family as I ride these bumpy waves of life over the next week or two.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

The Best Way to Ruin a Day

My precious, determined and motivated almost 9-year-old daughter has been faithfully working out for the last few days every single morning before school. I am so proud of her, watching her grow stronger and more confident the more she does these workouts, and it’s certainly put some pep in her step!

So this morning she awoke and did her workout as usual, but then, I noticed a gloomy look on her face and I asked her what was wrong and if she was ok. It didn’t seem to fit her normal enthusiasm she has had as of late!

She began to spout off things that weren’t fair in her life, a lot of them pertaining to her brother. I think this was especially spurred on by him being home sick this morning, and she was feeling a little envious.

As we dialogued about her struggles,  I felt compassion for her and struggled to hold my tears back at points. I get it.  The struggle with fairness has been one that I’ve had to deal with over the years.

I have this conversation with my kids fairly often if they come to me with things that don’t feel fair in their lives. I have to remind them in return that, if I were to keep a “fair score”, my sickness as I deal with MS doesn’t feel fair at all!  As I look around at friends, family and in the world in general sometime, I wonder what it must feel like to just be able to feel good most of the time. To be able to wake up in the morning and not wonder how much feeling I will have in my hands, and if my legs will be strong enough to carry me and do all the things I need to do in my day, as a mom and a wife. It doesn’t seem fair. And it certainly doesn’t seem fair that some of the most amazing people I know are dealing with cancer and just trying to save their own life. Or for the husband or wife who has lost their spouse, it certainly isn’t fair that they are now stuck trying to get by as a single parent, something I’m sure they didn’t ask or sign up for when they got married!

But do we really want fair?

As I processed with my daughter this morning, the thing that saddened me the most was how her posture and her whole demeanor became more angry and frustrated as she sat in that place and spoke of how unfair some things were that she has to deal with. I could tell it was taking her to a very negative place in her heart.

But if we were honest with ourselves, haven’t we all felt like that at some point? I know I have.

As I have processed through this same issue over the years, I have found in my own journey that hand-in-hand with the issue of fairness always comes the issue of comparison, and what a dark path to head down! 

Comparison is a deadly trap; it is a thief and it always comes to steal our joy! 

The danger of comparison is if you have the advantage over others in your mind, it’s easy to begin to feel pride take it’s hold on your heart; and if you come up short, you feel shame and failure begin to do the same! It’s a dangerous game you can’t win either way! 

I have certainly struggled over the years in my own story, and still have to fight through these feelings still from time to time, but God has shown me a safe place to land in my heart– to remember that I have my own journey, my own story. It is unique and is unlike anyone else’s. It’s not about fair, it’s about finding out what He has for me

This has been a game-changer in my life: to quit looking at what is or isn’t fair but to find value and treasure in my own journey. To know that God wants the absolute best for my life and has me on my own unique path, and it’s not always going to look like anyone else’s.

One great way that I have found to combat the comparisons to others is begin to look at the strengths that God has placed inside of me, and begin to maximize them the best I can, instead of worrying about what others are doing. I then begin to find a thankful heart by thanking Him for the strengths he has placed in me! A thankful heart will ALWAYS trumps an ungrateful bitter spirit. It always puts me in a much better place when I can do this practice, and I wind up feeling refreshed as I recall God’s work in my life, instead of discouragement about what isn’t going well for me.

Quitting the game of fairness and comparison has helped me find new freedom and new joy. It has helped me to be able to genuinely celebrate with others when maybe they have something that I would love to have, or are doing something I would love to do. They have their journey and I have mine! I believe this has now made me a better friend, a happier wife and mom and it has taken the pressure off of me to be like anyone else, and just to enjoy being myself!

I pray that even today you are able to begin to get off the roller-coaster ride of fairness and comparison. I pray you begin to see places where you have had this same struggle and that you can begin to make the choice to allow God to change your inner dialogue and help you think differently. May you find freedom in your journey like I have. I don’t want fair anymore, I want all that God has for me. It may not always look like fair, but it’s going to be good. xo

A Time For Weeping And A Time for Laughter

I have no doubt in my mind that getting a difficult health prognosis has to be one of the top hardest things to deal with in life, as I again discovered yesterday. I bet a lot of you who have also walked this road would agree with me.

I know people who have told me how they wonder at times how  I manage have to joy in the midst of the journey I walk, how I am able to be so brave, how I continue to have hope even though things look bleak at times.

I believe how I’m able to process what I’m feeling is key to getting through a really difficult situation and being able to hang on for the roller-coaster ride I’ve been on.

I sat in my new neurologist’s office yesterday as he looked at my brain MRI I had done last week,  listening to him say things like “Your MS is bad”, “This is going to effect you your whole life”, “your brain is covered with lots of lesions from the years of MS so far. I can see how it’s trying to repair itself but there is still scarring that will be there”…etc etc.

I sat there in silence, my head spinning, thinking ” I can’t believe this is my life. It’s so far from any thing I have wanted or ever desired to deal with.” I felt so much despair wash over me. At one point I found myself think how much I hated my life….but I quickly realized that wasn’t the truth at all and corrected that thought with, “no way do I hate my life! I have an amazing life and I love it. What I hate is this illness.”

I left the doctor’s office with my sweet husband and sat in his car, weeping over the update from my doctor, feeling the gravity of my situation, as he comforted me. I called my sister and wept some more. I picked my daughter up from school with tears still spilling over. I came back home and spent the rest of evening weeping as my kind husband took care of literally everything so I didn’t have to do a thing. And now, I’m sitting here now with many tears again.

I have dealt with this awful disease for 10 years but there are certain points where I come face to face with it and I feel so much grief for how much it has already impacted me, and how my future could possibly look.

There used to be times where I tried to be strong in my own strength–I believed strong looked like pushing my pain down and pressing forward as if I didn’t have a care in the world, while I quietly began to die little by little inside.

However, as I have learned better ways to cope now and as I have grown closer and closer with the Lord, I have found a new way to deal with my grief. I allow myself to feel it completely.

I let myself feel the full weight of my grief, my fear, my anxiety, my desperation, my despair..I kid you not, I felt as if I had a million emotions trying to get themselves out of my brain all at once yesterday. It was very overwhelming, but I just let the tears flow because I needed release from the pain I was feeling.

Here’s the game changer though: My grief as a follower of Jesus Christ is unique. It is very different from the way the world grieves. I grieve but not without hope.

Even as I wept yesterday, I was still able to tell my sister through my tears that I believe God still has a plan for my life, I am confident he knows exactly what he is doing even though I don’t have a clue, and I know there has to be joy and laughter somewhere on the other side. I can say all of these things with confidence as I look back and see God’s faithfulness in my life, and how he has proven himself worthy of my trust.

This has now changed the way I look at grief.

I am not afraid to go to that place of tears and deep anguish anymore. It’s not a scary place that takes me down a deep hole of despair, but instead it’s like a safety net. I’m acknowledging my pain and processing through it, while at the same time knowing that He is God and he is near, collecting all of my tears.

I believe my tears make a way for joy. If  don’t tap into my sorrows and pain, I can’t tap into the joy God wants to give me. I love how it says that he catches our tears in a bottle. They are precious to him. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.You have recorded each one in your book.” Psalm 56:8 and then the promise he makes, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5.

Ecclessiastes 3:4 also says “there is a time for weeping, and a time for laughter.”  I was reminded of this verse yesterday; that now is my time for weeping, but it says there will again be a time for laughter coming. I am believing that this is not the end. God has the last word in my life.

Equally important as I’m processing my deep pain and sorrow has been reading God’s word, which is such a comfort to my heart.  I especially like to read the Psalms during times like these as David voices all of his emotions, just like I’m trying to do. I love how real he is, and it encourages me to be real also.

I like to also journal and write down my thoughts and feelings, helping get them out of my head and on paper. It truly does free up brain space and leave more room in my mind and heart to hear God speaking to me, and be able to receive it.

Lastly, there are no words for how grateful I am that a friend gave me a copy of “Chase the Lion” by Mark Batterson, the night before my difficult day yesterday. God’s timing truly is perfect, and has been such a tremendous encouragement to me.

It is a book about dreaming big and I have decided that I am going to do just that this year. Dreaming gives me a sense of empowerment, that I believe God wants all of us to have. Even though I feel like I have lost parts of my health and it’s completely out of my control, it can’t stop me from dreaming. And it certainly can’t stop God from fulfilling these dreams through me in my lifetime.

I’m going to end this with a couple of quotes that really stuck out to me yesterday as I read through parts of this powerful book. I hope it encourages you as much as it did me!

Bless you as you walk through your hard places and process your grief. Our heavenly Father is ever-present, walking with us and He truly cares. I pray you feel his presence even in the midst of your grief and pain as much as I have. 

“If you want to live an epic life, you have to overcome some epic challenges. You have to take some epic risks, make some epic sacrifices.”

“A God-sized dream dream will always beyond your ability, beyond your resources. Unless God does it, it cannot be done! But that’s how God gets the glory. If your dream doesn’t scare you, it’s too small. It also falls short of God’s glory by not giving him an opportunity to show up and show off his power.”

The dark night of the soul

I know I have been more quiet than usual and have taken a bit of a break since one of my last posts titled, “The tears won’t last forever”.

It has been exactly 4 weeks since I wrote that and since then, I’ve had more tears than words, combined with what even has felt a bit like depression at times. I’ve had a hard time even figuring out why this MS episode I’ve been experiencing has affected me in such a deep way, and stirred up so much grief.

Please note: It is very hard to be so vulnerable and to share what I’ve been walking through but I continue to share my heart in hopes that you all know that in whatever pain or grief you’re facing in your life–you do not walk this road alone.

Going through this experience has shown me again what the dark night of the soul is like, but in a harder way than I’ve ever faced. It has helped me see that sometimes we truly have no idea the things that others are walking through in their lives. I’m sure most of you have no idea I’ve been struggling as much as I have been, unless you’ve been one of the lucky ones  (haha-kidding) I’ve been vulnerable with and possibly cried on your shoulder, so to speak. This experience has reminded me how much we all need to remember to show kindness and give others the benefit of the doubt, because even though I know what I’ve been walking through may not be near as drastic as things others are walking through,  even I have struggled desperately, near the point of hopelessness at times.

How much I have appreciated those in my life who have not turned their heads and hearts at my tears, but instead have embraced me and surrounded me with support and kindness when I needed it the most. I hope  I can repay what I have been shown to others who walk through what I’ve been walking through.

I would say my biggest struggle I have faced in the recent months as I have finally sorted it out in my head has been coming to grips with my limitations and learning to accept them.

It has been 3.5 months since my legs took a turn for the worse and it has left me terrified at moments at how  I could not depend on them, lest they collapse on me at any point as I was attempting to use them. I also began to realize as I search for part-time employment that I couldn’t just accept any job I wanted, but needed to begin to plan what I could do within my limitations.

 

You guys, this has been really really challenging for this 34 year old to accept. These are things I had not ever planned to have to worry about for another 30-40 years; and yet here I am, planning my life around my physical disabilities and limitations.

It has been so so hard. My heart and my deepest respect both go out to you all who have have the courage and strength to face and come to terms with  your limitations, because this has rocked my world.

As I have taken a good hard look within myself, I have realized the ultimate issue has come down to my trust in God, or lack thereof recently. I allowed my fear of what I realized I couldn’t control AT ALL to become bigger than my trust in who I know my God is. 

What a scary place to sit, because as our Pastor at church said, “Where your eyes go, your body will follow.” Because I was looking at what I couldn’t control and becoming more and more afraid of my present and my future, I began to take my eyes off the Lord in those moments.

I am so thankful for His grace and that He never gives up on us. EVER! He has brought amazing people in my life in the recent weeks and months to continue to speak truth and life to me, and to help pull me out of this dark hole. As I have spent time doing some soul-searching and praying in the midst of so many tears, I have began to see the truth.

God can work in the midst of our limitations and He is not limited by our limitations! 

As I come to grips more and more with this truth and learn to accept my limitations, I am beginning to find peace with the fact that there may be times where I can’t always use my physical body as much as I would like,  but God still has a plan for my life. A brilliant plan at that.  He is not surprised by the things I face, and He is still working all things for my good.

In the midst of all of this, God has never changed a bit. He hasn’t changed his mind about me, He continues to show his ever-lasting love for me and has proven to be as faithful to me as the sun rising every morning. He is not afraid or put off by my tears and questions, and loves to show me who He is even in the midst of all the doubts I have.

I pray you all have the opportunity to also experience Him in the beautiful way that I am right now in my life.

I acknowledge that the tears and wrestling may continue for a time as I prayerfully sort all this out in my heart, but I trust that He is going to carry me through this time.  I believe that light will emerge on the other side of this dark night.

Thank-you for reading and please contact me if you would like me to pray with you in the midst of struggles you are facing. You are loved!

 

 

 

Stepping out of fear- guest blog post

” Yes, we who deal with chronic illness have some pretty great reasons why we wouldn’t want to take risks in life, but we need to step out of our fears if we want to experience the greatness of the purposes God has for us.”

 

Like many of you I’m a wife and a mother, but I’m also a small business owner. My business, Wreaths By Liz, creates customized burlap, floral and vintage wreaths.

In addition to all of that, I deal with an auto-immune disease called Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which attacks my neurological system.

MS can cause serious short term and/or long term physical disability. Itʼs a difficult and unpredictable disease, and it has personally been an intimidating one for me to deal with at times, especially considering how it has affected my brain and spinal cord. One month I may feel like a normal, healthy person. The next, I may be lying in bed without full use of one or more parts of my body. I have now had 5 major flare-ups involving pain and physical impairment since becoming diagnosed in 2007.

During my flare-ups, I have lost much of the ability to walk and use my legs due to loss of feeling and weakness.  My right hand and arm have also been completely paralyzed and unusable, and I’ve lost most of my vision in one eye. Even now I’m dealing with some issues.  The vision in my right eye is still impaired and I’m struggling to walk well due to weakness, numbness and pain in my legs.

Each flare-up is unique in how long it lasts, but normally they are 1-2 months in duration. I deal with each as long as I can before submitting to a 3-day IV of steroids as a last resort with the hope of getting back to “normal” quickly.

In my current flare-up I’m doing a mix of natural things like working with my doctor to help me monitor my diet carefully and taking supplements. Both help reduce inflammation. I believe the most powerful thing I’ve done is find an amazing Physical Therapist to help me regain strength and functionality. I highly recommend this as we have seen amazing results already. I only wish I had known about this effective practice sooner!

MS has also effected me mentally. I have gone through an array of emotions since my diagnosis: fear of what was happening to my body, terror that my condition would force me into a wheelchair, and desperation is my quest to recover. I often struggle to find the balance between hope and reality.

At times over the last 9 years I have experienced such a sense of hopelessness dealing with the awfulness of this neurological auto-immune disease and all of the setbacks and disabilities I have endured. In the midst of all the hardship, I began to believe the lie that I’ve missed the boat and that it’s too late to dream,  it’s too late to accomplish anything, and that I’m not going to have much to offer anyone. It sounds awful to even put that on paper, but that is the truth of the struggles I have felt. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling.

If we allow it to, disability and sickness can cause us to become easily isolated, trapped in our own fears, and feeling like an outsider.  I had a picture once of a parade walking by, and while most of the world was participating so many who deal with illness were standing on the sidelines. While their lives moved on, ours were at a standstill.

I am now realizing the lie of not having a lot of worth due to my sickness.  For a long time I tucked away dreams and desires in a corner of my heart. I believed that I was doomed to a life of battling this disease in a reactive position without ever moving ahead in life. I now see that those believes were not founded on truth.  It was a lie designed to hold me back from my potential and to keep me from accomplishing everything God wanted me to accomplish in my lifetime. It was meant to make me feel stuck in my circumstances, like damaged goods, and not good for much.

I have been challenged in my thoughts and forced to rethink what I really believe. Through recent circumstances I have realized how much I have devalued who I am, and I am now beginning to understand that God has placed gifts and talents in me with which I have a responsibility to do something!

The truth is: I have been created with purpose and destiny. I have been called. I have been chosen. God is redeeming my circumstances and giving me beauty for the ashes of my life. And I want to share that message with anyone else who battles mental and physical illness. They should not journey through life without hope.

I know sometimes it’s easier to make excuses for why we can’t do something, and we feel like we just don’t have what it takes. It can be a lot less challenging to stay isolated in our own little space and not push ourselves.  We’re scared to take a risk on doing something that we have always dreamed or desired to do fearing that we could fall flat on our faces! It definitely takes less effort to minimize our risks and stay away from places where we could face rejection and find out that we don’t really have what it takes!

I’m beginning to realize that I would rather take that risk instead of sitting around. I couldn’t experience hope if I never seize an opportunity to experience the amazing ways that God could show up with His grace and enable me to do more than I could ever have dreamed!

My challenge to all of you is this… Start dreaming again.  Stop making excuses why you can’t try something new and take a risk in an area of life where you’ve imagined goals that you’ve dreamed about chasing.

Yes, we who deal with chronic illness have some pretty great reasons why we wouldn’t want to take risks in life, but we need to step out of our fears if we want to experience the greatness of the purposes God has for us.

The more we know our value in who God has created us to be, the more I believe we will be compelled to take a step into the dreams and desires of our hearts, and I know for certain God will meet us there and take us further than we could go alone. 

DREAM BIG! TAKE RISKS! YOU ARE WORTH IT! 

 

The tears won’t last forever

…..this is what I’ve had to remind myself for the last week now, as I have been in what feels like constant tears, even at times, weeping.

It’s hard for me to even admit this.

At times I’ve seen my tears as weakness, or a thing to be embarrassed over. I struggle with feeling like I should have moved past this point of grief and know how to handle all of this emotion by now as I deal with my issues regarding MS; but I’m realizing how much the tears are needed. They are cleansing to our hearts and an effective tool for helping me process  pain  and grief, which I believe could otherwise turn to bitterness or anger, if undealt with.

I felt it important to be honest and  share this because I want you to know that you are not alone in the hard days. I have brave days and I have days where I am so scared that I can barely breathe if I take my eyes off of Jesus, for even just one moment.

As I’ve dealt with this fear and sorrow creeping up on me in the midst of this MS flareup, it’s honestly been hard to remember how it was when my body was in its optimal state and it has been terrifying. I have found it hard to even put into words how isolating and suffocating it feels if I allow the fear to take a hold of my heart, but it is very challenging, to say the least.

As I have thought through my emotions in the last week, I have found that allowing myself to cry, whether it be alone or on friends shoulders, is a very powerful remedy. In addition, speaking my deepest fears out loud to those who love me has been very healing for me and has helped me work through some of the pain and fear I wrestle with in my heart, and to recognize the lies I believe. (Thank-you if this was you! 🙂 )

The truth is, I am tired of the tears, I grow tired of grieving, I’m weary of being face to face with my deepest fears and looking them straight in the eye, with no break– but this scripture has brought me so much hope and encouragement. It helps me to allow myself to be in this place of tears, because I know I won’t stay here forever. And neither will you.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” PSALM 30:5.

 

Last weekend, a sweet new friend of mine captured the photo of me shown above and it made me laugh when I saw it because I have felt quite the opposite recently! Seeing that photo though helps me remember my true identity– I am a Christ-follower, filled with a deep joy and hope that cannot be shaken, no matter the circumstances. Underneath the grief, the pain and the tears, there is still joy to be found, just as we are promised, and it truly will be our strength to carry us through.

I pray no matter what season you find yourself in, you are able to find joy at the core of who you are, because of the deep and abiding hope we have– Jesus Christ, himself.

“…..the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10