Hello, Lyme Disease

Tick

“I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees You.”
Job 42:5 ESV

I apologize for staying away for so long.  I’m finally ready to share what has been going on in my life. (This article was first written in January … I’ve “sat” on it for awhile and finally felt like editing and publishing it today. Hopefully this is clear, despite my ever-present brain fog. Please feel free to ask questions.)  Last autumn things were going well, and I was just getting back into the swing of things with life and with my new blog.  And I was getting better, or so I thought.

In October I was very surprised to find out I have Lyme disease.  Other than continuing fatigue and a few other niggling problems like a stiff neck, headaches, brain fog, insomnia, stiffness, occasional dizziness, sensitivities to foods/chemicals/mold, and various body pains, my overall health and blood work had improved after months of following a strict allergy elimination diet.  It is by God’s grace that I went ahead and did the Lyme blood *test, “just in case.”

When I was told, “You have Lyme disease,” everything seemed to stop for awhile.  I had heard of Lyme disease but didn’t know much about it.  My mother-in-grace had suggested several weeks earlier that I might have it, but when I looked up the symptoms, I didn’t think I qualified for that diagnosis.  And I didn’t understand how this could happen when I didn’t remember getting a tick bite or bulls eye rash.  (I’ve since found out you can also get Lyme through a mosquito bite.)  When I looked online, I must’ve found all the worse case scenarios: blindness, trouble breathing, terrible pain, devastating herxing reactions, losing use of limbs, brain damage, etc.  (These drastic symptoms are usually experienced by people who go undiagnosed for years, even decades.  If they get treatment, they usually improve and can become functioning again.) I allowed myself to be gripped by fear.  In my mind I KNOW God is in control and can be trusted.  But, at that point, I was freaking out.

Based on a misunderstanding, I began to use essential oils too much too fast.  Instead of diffusing these powerful agents fifteen minutes at a time, I was running it for hours on end.  I began to have trouble breathing and felt like a moose was sitting on my chest.  My fear escalated.  I read and tried everything I could think of to get better:  I prayed, meditated on Scripture, rested, tried to divert my mind by watching Tim Hawkins, tried to ignore it and “go on with life,” bounced on the trampoline (for a full 9 seconds until I knew that wasn’t helping), etc.  Panic was my companion (*** See below for helpful resources).  I called my doctor to make an appointment, but hearing of my chest pains they refused to see me and sent me directly to the ER.  Sigh.  I thank God for the friends who helped with our boys.  Had God forsaken us?  NO.

Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to live or die.  I. Felt. Terrible.  I was at a point of total abandonment of my plans and complete humbling to God’s will, whatever that included.  And, I was exactly where God wanted me.

As my husband and I waited for tests to be run and reports to come back, I glanced up at the clock.  It was a detailed digital clock that looked something like this:

digital clock

What I saw took my breath away.  11:11 and 11 seconds.  Relief swept over me and I called to my husband:  “Tim!  God cares about us!  God is with us!  Look at the clock!”  Knowing my secret code with God, Tim looked at me and simply said, “And today is November 11th … 11/11.”  It changed everything.  God didn’t have to be so extremely personal in His affirmation of love for me, but He WAS and IS personal!!! God gave me a beautiful gift that day that I will always treasure in my heart.  (You will understand why this was so special to us by reading here.)

The excellent hospital staff didn’t find anything life threatening and sent me home.  I can’t sufficiently express our thanks to my in-laws for coming to help us for a few days.  I was in a waiting and uncertainty mode.  My doctor who read my Lyme test results and gave me the diagnosis doesn’t know much about Lyme, so she referred me to two Lyme experts.

Finally, the days of my appointments arrived.  To sum it all up, both doctors looked at my test results and said I probably haven’t had Lyme very long.  This is a good thing as it probably means the infections haven’t embedded themselves as deeply.  The medical doc wanted to start me on antibiotics right away, but I’ve not had good experiences with antibiotics over the years and wanted the natural treatment doctor’s opinion before making a decision.  These two women work hand in hand, and I felt so blessed that God had led us to them through a dear friend named Ella.

Several days later we met with the natural doctor, who also has Lyme herself.  She assured me that I didn’t need antibiotics and started me on a natural protocol that has proven very effective for many people.  There is no cure for Lyme, but it can be manageable with vigilant care (more about this below).

For those who are interested, this is what I am taking:

1.  Monolaurin and Bio-Fibrin – This was recommended both by my medical doctor and natural practitioner.  It has a high success rate as it powerfully thins bio-films to you can actually get at the bacteria.  The coconut extract breaks through the bacteria cell walls killing them.  They also have a product that helps with detoxing the die-off.  You can read about the protocol here.
2.  Takuna – You can find out more about these powerful anti-microbial drops here.
(update as of 2/18/15 – I’m finished with Takuna and am now taking Futureplex Bacterotox drops)
3.  Resveratrol – This actually tastes yummy!
4.  Detox – Epsom salt baths, foot soaks, and infrared sauna
5.  Supplements – Vitamin D, B, milk thistle (liver, gall bladder), curcumin (turmeric), adrenal support, glutathione, magnesium.
6. To help with Adrenal Fatigue, I am following Dr. Christianson’s Adrenal Reset Diet protocol.  (Special thanks to my neighbor Jane for lending me her sun lamp!)
7. For herxing I have some homeopathic drops that greatly help, as well as sarsaparilla root capsules.

I’ve worked my way up to full dose.  One Sunday recently I was able to play the piano again for the entire church service for the first time in months (in October I couldn’t even stand for the singing and last summer I could barely play because of my arthritic fingers).  It is a joy that I don’t take for granted.  Yet, another Sunday I was so exhausted after playing I had to go lie down during the sermon.  I never know if it’s going to be a “good” day or a “bad” day.  Most days my worst symptoms are fatigue and brain fog.  A couple of times I have been laid flat by herxing (a negative physical response when you cannot get rid of the dying infection fast enough).  Depression lurks around the corner, especially if I indulge in sugar or chocolate.  It is difficult for me to drive in the dark, and I can’t multitask like I used to.  It is overwhelming to be around a lot of noise and flashing light.  Talking with people is exhausting even though I need and love the fellowship.

On Monday I felt the best I’ve felt in I don’t know how long.  Praise the Lord!  Then the past two days I’ve been dragging again.  Praise the Lord!  We need to praise Him in all things.  Sometimes this is a sacrifice of praise – and oh how He treasures it!!

Here are a few of the blessings:

  • the love and prayers of family and friends
  • watching God lovingly provide for our needs (including wisdom)
  • the only natural treatment expert in our state is ten minutes from my in-laws’ home
  • being able to add back in many foods
  • having a diagnosis and being able to work toward better health
  • becoming aware for the first time how widespread chronic pain is
  • increased compassion (our boys are learning this, too)
  • the opportunity to learn more about the complexity of the human body God created
  • receiving good medical treatment
  • complete surrender and rededication to God
  • the development of closer and stronger family bonds
  • not taking health for granted and appreciating the simple things in life
  • repenting of a complaining heart and learning contentment
  • being a living testimony of God’s faithful care
  • meeting people I probably never would have met otherwise
  • learning to be still and how to relax
  • discovering that my value doesn’t depend on what I can do for God, and that He can use me at my very weakest more than He could use me if I were doing 101 things for Him in my own strength
  • being forced to prioritize and humbling myself to ask for help
  • recognizing the frailty of all that is seen and increased faith in the reality of things that are unseen
  • experiencing the peace and joy that comes from God alone

And, of course, I have a unique opportunity to proclaim God’s power and provision.  Trials are not fun, but they are a necessary part of making us who God wants us to be.  Some say He only allows trials as a result of the fallen world we created by our own rebellion against God (through Adam and Eve).  But, there is evidence that God designs specific trials for specific people, promising to go through it all with us, for our good and His glory.  We are told to expect trials in this life and we are encouraged to know they serve a very useful purpose – Psalm 23:4, Romans 5:1-5Romans 8:18-252 Corinthians 1:3-5, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, James 1:2-12, I Peter 4:12-13.

Some websites will tell you that Lyme is quickly taken care of by a round of antibiotics (one month to three months … I have a friend who was on antibiotics off and on for five years for her Lyme).  If you catch it immediately after the bite, it can be eradicated.  But, generally it is a life-long fight.  Most resources will tell you there is no known cure for Lyme disease, because the spirochetes like to hide deep within tissues, muscles, blood and bones, so it is impossible to know if “we got’em all.”   It is also usually a collection of several infections that are administered through that dreaded insect bite.   Some are more deadly than Lyme!  Lyme disease is called the great imitator because many diseases are falsely diagnosed – actually being Lyme, like: Fibromyalgia, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue, ALS, etc.

My goal is to get as well as I can, so I can be as functional as possible.  God and I take one day at a time.  I hope people will understand that I may not be able to say yes to many extra opportunities for awhile.  I’ve cut back on my time online as it is quite draining.  Most days it is an accomplishment just to get the dishes washed and have food on the table.  We’ve added 2 DVD classes to help with our homeschooling.  I’ve learned how to make jewelry, which is both relaxing and something fun I can do without too much effort. We are pursuing having my eight amalgam fillings replaced as we believe this may be part off the process of getting rid of heavy metal poisoning so that my system can concentrate of getting rid of the Lyme.  I am very thankful for each day and the strength God provides!  I know God can heal me if He wants to, so I trust Him to do what is best for us.  My deepest desire is that God will be honored through this!

If you have Lyme or know someone with Lyme, I would love to hear your comments below.  What has God been teaching you through your journey?  What are your struggles? What treatments have you found to be helpful for you?  Because of Jesus we have a bright future!  God is faithful.  Thank You, God!

Joyfully His,

Sara

Psalm 73:26 – “My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”

 * If you suspect you may have Lyme, the most reliable tests are done through IGeneX.

Helpful Resources

VIDEOS

1.  LymeLight – The Story of a professional freeskier, Angeli VanLannan, with Lyme
2.  About Lyme and why the government and most doctors avoid it.
3.  TV star battles Lyme
4.  Under Our Skin documentary
5.  Under our Skin, Emergence review (sequel, 2014)
6.  Hope for chronic Lyme
7.  Alternatives to antibiotics

ARTICLES

1.  Finding a Lyme literate doctor in your area
2.  Lyme is the “Great Imitator,” misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, depression, M.S., Chronic Fatigue, ALS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.
3.  Hope for chronic Lyme
4.  Lyme information
5.  Essential Oils Treatment: Raindrop Massage Technique

BOOKS

1.  Insights Into Lyme Disease Treatment: 13 Lyme Literate Health Care Practitioners Share Their Healing Strategies by Connie Strasheim
2.  Freedom From Lyme Disease: New Treatments for a Complete Recovery by Bryan Rosner
3.  Why Can’t I Get Better?  by Richard Horowitz, MD
4.  The Lyme Disease Solution by Kenneth B. Singleton, MD
5.  Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme by Stephen Herrod Buhner
6.  The Lyme Diet: Nutritional Strategies for Healing From Lyme Disease by Nicola McFadzean, ND
7.  Recipes for Repair, A Lyme Disease Cookbook, by Kenneth B. Singleton, MD, MPH
8.  When Antibiotics Fail: Lyme Disease and Rife Machines, with Critical Evaluation of Leading Alternative Therapies by Bryan Rosner
9.  *** Saving the BEST for last, I highly recommend Quieting a Noisy Soul for anxiety and panic attacks.  Excellent material!  I can’t say enough good about it.

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God’s Stop Signs – My Allergy Elimination Diet and a Journey to Better Health (body, mind, spirit)

How was your summer?  I hope it was a great one! 

Our summer schedule looked inviting … with just the right amount of busy. But as soon as it started, it was a struggle. By the beginning of June I felt like I. couldn’t. move.  I had been sick for a few weeks and couldn’t snap out of it.   I didn’t know what to do, so I contacted a doctor friend of mine to see what she would suggest.  She lives about 45 minutes away but she said she could help me (has gone through it herself and has helped many women like me). 

Beginning of Diagnosis

After lots of paperwork and a lengthy interview (it is a gift to have a doctor who really cares and listens!), she began treating me according to my symptoms and as the result of many tests which gave clues as to what was going on with me:

Insulin resistance (the step before pre-diabetes), leaky gut, adrenal fatigue, vitamin D and B deficiencies, possibly an auto immune disease (maybe Hashimoto’s or Pernicious Anemia), environmental and food sensitivities.

After pigging out on my last box of Cheez-Its, I immediately began an allergy elimination diet: no dairy, no grains, no fruit (except lime and lemon), no nuts, no vinegar (I was taking Braggs apple cider vinegar daily, but she thought it might cause candida issues), no nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, peas, potatoes, peppers, beans (except green), pimentos, paprika – there is a good post to explain this here.), no sweetener (not even stevia).  Doc said that anything that tastes sweet affects insulin, so that includes most fruit and even stevia.

You might ask, “What’s left?!”  The good news is that I could have: grass fed/antibiotic free meat, fish, most veggies, and healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, pure coconut milk/cream, olive oil). 

After a month of eating just the list I mentioned, I was able to begin adding in one food at a time.  Dr. Laura wanted me to introduce a food, wait three days (because there can be a delayed reaction) and reintroduce the food and wait another three days.  Assuming everything goes well, that adds up to one new food each week.  Knowing this wouldn’t be a quick fix, I asked Doc, “So will I be feeling much better in a few months?”  To which she replied, “A year and a half.”  God help me!!

Symptoms

Some friends ask, “What were your symptoms?”  It’s easier to say, “You name it!” because there were so many.  But, I will take time to list many of them right here and now:
  • Debilitating fatigue
  • Foggy brain (can’t think straight and feel like there is something blocking my brain)
  • Itchy rash over most of my body
  • Insatiable cravings for sugar and carbs
  • Sudden and uncharacteristic outbursts of anger (especially after I ate sugar and gluten) – most of the time I would leave the room or suppress it, but sometimes I yelled at my kids
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Dimming eye sight
  • My whole body ached most of the time
  • Nausea
  • Throbbing eyes
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Trouble breathing deeply
  • Irregular cycles
  • Fingernails falling apart
  • Barely able to keep up with basic household duties
  • Insomnia
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Apathy
  • Arthritic pain in my hands
  • Numbness at times in my hands and feet
  • Sharp pains in my chest
  • Headaches
  • Inability to remember things
  • Crying and feelings of hopelessness
  • Stomach pain and trouble digesting food
  • Three miscarriages
  • Inability to be in crowds of people for very long
  • Thinning hair
  • Stuffy nose
  • Dizziness
  • Acne
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Etc.

Over the past few years I had gone to doctors and had only been diagnosed as gluten sensitive.  I knew there was more wrong with me, but nobody could figure it out.  Dr. Laura ordered an extensive blood test, urine test, and stool test (still need to do the saliva test).  The reason she thinks that I may have an auto-immune disease is because my symptoms are common to it and because many of my symptoms fell into opposing categories: for example, I had some strong hypo-thyroid symptoms, as well as definite hyper-thyroid symptoms.

My Menu

The first two months were so hard, as I detoxed from sugar and tried to adjust to eating differently.  To give you an idea of what I eat, here is a list of what a few days of meals looks like for me:

B: bacon, yellow squash

L: Lettuce, leftover chicken, olive oil

S: Coconut chicken: Chicken baked with a can of coconut cream, ginger, cumin, coriander, salt … on top of spaghetti squash

B: Bacon, cauliflower, olive oil

L: Purple cabbage, sausage (I take a lb. of ground pork and add a tsp. of each: nutmeg, sage, rosemary, thyme, salt
)
S: Hamburger wrapped in lettuce with tomato, bacon, sweet potato fries

B: Sausage, canned asparagus, olive oil

L: Kale, bacon

S: Homemade spaghetti sauce (once I could eat tomatoes) over spaghetti squash

B: Spinach/arugula mix, chicken, olive oil

L: Tilapia, salad steamed veggies, o.o.

S: Ham, canned green beans, o.o., basil, oregano

B: X

L: Salmon, yellow summer squash, o.o., coconut oil

S: Chicken, tarragon, brussel sprouts, olive oil

B: Chicken, zucchini, avocado, tarragon

L: Pork chop, lettuce salad, olive oil with lime, tarragon

S: Sausage, acorn squash, coconut oil

I try to cook the same for my family, simply adding a pot of rice, noodles, or biscuits for them to enjoy.

Reintroductions

I’ve been able to add back in: macadamia nuts, blueberries, strawberries, and tomatoes.  Blessings!  I’ve had a bad reaction to eggs, almonds, and of course gluten.  I am VERY SAD about the eggs.  We get free-range organic eggs from an Amish farmer, and my body does not like them.  I’m still trying to accept this fact and be grateful for the foods I can eat.

Doc said it can take three months to get dairy out of your system, so on September 19th I will be able to try grass-fed butter.  PRAYING that it works for me.  If so, I will get to try goat cheese and then yogurt.  It would be lovely to be able to enjoy these foods, if God says it’s okay.

Blessings and Road Blocks

God helped me take the boys to VBS in July.  That was a huge praise!  Forty-five minutes drive twice a day – God helped me do it, plus play the piano three times each day.  But, while Tim and the boys were camping for a few days, I got violently ill and had to be taken to the ER by my neighbor.  We still don’t know what caused that problem.

And since then we’ve figured out that something in our church building might be making me sick.  One Sunday night on our way home, after spending most of the time in the church basement, I felt like I couldn’t move, couldn’t stop crying, and could barely talk.  Tim had to help me into the house to my bed.  If I spend much time in the basement it seems worse.  So, for right now I am staying upstairs in the church building. Sigh. 

God wants me to slow down and change some things.  We weren’t able to go to family camp, and for that matter we can’t go very far from home at all right now.  I don’t know what He’s doing, but I can trust that it is good.

While I have seen relief from many of my symptoms, at times I feel very depressed.  I don’t have as much energy as I hoped I would have at this point.  There are good days and bad days.  I’ve definitely spent more time studying and listening to God’s Word.  I’ve asked God to help me, and He has sent people to encourage, show they care, and pray with me and for me.  It means SO MUCH to have a friend call just to see how I’m doing. 

He has also helped me locate a Christ-centered program to help me deal with my mind: 21 Day Brain Detox. I so appreciate Dr. Leaf.  She has the science combined with God’s word to explain how to Romans 12:1-2 – renew your mind.

What I’ve Been Learning

1.  Food was my idol. I’m still trying to fill in the gap that has been left by withdrawing my time, energy, and excitement (and pleasure of tasting and eating) trying new recipes and cooking fancy delicacies for my family.  I’ve been spoiled, and it is extremely sad when I cannot go out to eat or even to an ice cream stand.  God has taken this out of my priority list so that He is nearer the top!  Food is very much tied to socializing in our culture.  I already knew this, but it stands out even more now. It is challenging to meet with people and always having to bring my own food.  There are only two restaurants that are safe for me to go to (with no risk of cross contamination). 

2.  There is so much about the body we don’t understand.  I also knew this, but since nutrition and health have been my hobby for a few years, I had read tons of books on the subject.  And through this process I’ve been learning so much and know I have only scratched the surface learning about God’s incredible creation.  How could anyone believe all this evolved?!

3.  Don’t fight what God is doing.  A couple nights ago I was in such turmoil during the night (typical, but it had been escalating).  God lovingly showed me that I was angry with Him about my health, about my food limitations, and a few other things.  It is, of course, sin, to accuse Him of doing to me what living in this world cursed by sin has done to my body and mind.  Once I confessed my anger and He forgave me, I felt relief and relaxation drench my soul.  God has allowed this for a reason – a very good reason.  He knows that I need this experience to grow.  I am so thankful I can trust Him to go through this with me.

4.  My body likes eating this way Once a month had passed and my metabolism switched to fat burning instead of carb burning, my weight began to drop.  In about nine weeks I had lost 17 lbs.  It feels so good to be where I’ve wanted to be weight-wise for years!  Doc said this is not uncommon once you figure out a person’s food sensitivities and heal their gut.  I’m hardly ever hungry (don’t have that “gotta eat something”  hanging over me all day long).  I no longer feel like I need to sleep after each meal (not that I did sleep after every meal, but I felt like it).  It is wonderful to be able to let go of the extra weight in my life (not just physical, but mental, emotional, social and spiritual!) and to have a more focused view on God and what is most important in life.

5. There are many worse things in the world, but this is hard.  Sometimes I feel like I am in a prison.  I can’t take a break.  I cannot have a once a day treat, or a once a week treat, or even a once a month treat!!!  The first month I felt like I could kill for a piece of chocolate cake.  Thankfully no one was maimed.  And God has been graciously adjusting my taste buds, so I rarely weep over where I find myself.  Also, I have to remember, this will get better.  But, I must get used to a new normal.  I will never go back to how I was eating before.  At least once a week I think ahead to the marriage feast of the Lamb – and I am going to savor every bite (when I get there, no doubt the importance of food will fade even more in His presence)!

6.  Love.  Tim and the boys know that I love them when I make food for them that I used to enjoy.  They have shown such love and compassion!  Sometimes they hug me when I can’t hold back the tears, like last night when they had buttered popcorn and frozen yogurt.  They hugged me and told me how much they love me.  And when we sat down to watch Facing the Giants I knew I was loved while I munched on my sweet potato and bacon (which, by the way, was very satisfying).

7.  It helps to laugh The other night I was in Barnes and Noble, pouring over the healthy cookbooks.  I felt like crying because there were still so many things in THOSE that I can’t eat.  A man sitting nearby was groaning audibly as he looked in several diabetes cookbooks.  At one point he cried out in despair, “Bean patte?!?”  When I came home and told Tim about it, he understandingly replied, “And you felt like saying to him, ‘I would love to have bean patte!’”  Sometimes when I feel so discouraged, it is as though Jesus puts His arms around me and gently reminds me, “Sara, I never got to eat pizza, ice cream, or chocolate either.”  And we laugh together – awww, He is such a comfort!

What Now?

For those of you who are going through much harder things, I am so sorry for what you are going through.  I do know that God has a plan for your life as well as mine, and we can trust Him!  Wouldn’t it be delightful to be able to get a diagnosis, pop a pill, and be all well?  Or maybe for you … to find a husband, to have a child, to see wayward family members come to Christ, to get relief from your grief, to get money to pay those bills, and be all better?  God is constantly using the struggles of life for one purpose: to draw us to Himself.  And when He has our attention we can either fight back and reject the priceless lessons He is trying to teach us, or accept and draw near to Him.

Today is the first time I’ve felt like writing in months – so, maybe this is a sign I am healing?  I hope that what I am writing makes sense.  I write to answer the many questions my small circle of family and friends have asked me, and in case my scribblings about all this may help someone in similar circumstances.

Please contact me if you would like information about resources.  I’d recommend you begin with the book Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by David Perlmutter and Kristin Loberg.  This book is informative and well documented.

I would love to hear from YOU.  And until next time … will you please enjoy a bowl of ice cream for me (better yet, pray for me)?

Joyfully His,
Sara

“My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart 
and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26

In Her Shoes – Women and Cancer

 

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me,
I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 NKJV

 

This month we are blessed to hear from three women who have walked with God through the valley of the shadow of cancer.  Each testimony will bless your heart and remind you of God’s ever faithful love.  Below is a list of resources.  If you would like to share about your cancer journey or the journey of someone you love, we would treasure hearing from you at the end of this article. 

Our first testimony is from my sweet sister in Christ, Sarah from Iowa, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the very real possibility of cancer.  She delights in sharing about God’s faithfulness through her time of trial.  Thank you, Sarah!

God Is My Refuge 

 

Somewhere around the middle of 2012 was when I first began to realize that something might be wrong.  There were no major symptoms, but just a series of incidents that were significant enough to begin to cause some concern, such as some memory loss, a couple of severe headaches, and a dizzy spell or two that all seemed unusual.

 

From the very beginning, God’s hand was amazingly evident in every detail!  First of all, our family has a friend who is a neurologist, and she was the one who, after hearing about the incidents I had, was able to get me a referral to see a doctor in early October.  He did an EEG and an MRI, which revealed a small mass in my right temporal lobe that was causing some minor seizure-like activity in my brain.  He was of the opinion that it needed to be removed, even though it appeared benign, and he referred me to a doctor at the University of Iowa Hospital, because of the world-class excellence of the neurosurgery department there.  I first saw him on October 22, and he was able to get me scheduled me for surgery on November 14.

God graciously allowed me to continue teaching right up until the day before my surgery and make preparations for my aid, who took over the classroom in my absence.  This dear woman was another clear evidence of God’s sovereign provision, since she had been a part of our classroom since the beginning of the year and works wonderfully well with the kids!

The surgery lasted 7 hours and went very well, however they had to leave a small part of the tumor, because it was located so near to the brain stem.  We had been told that very likely I would have to do further treatment at some point or possibly have another surgery in the future.  I was released from the hospital 4 days after surgery and permitted to go to stay with my parents during the recovery time.  God’s timing was so perfect, as the time recommended for recovery took me right up to Christmas break, and it was such a blessing to be able to be with my family during that time!

When the pathology report came back, I was told that it was the best possible news I could have received!  Not only was the tumor benign, but amazingly they do not believe that I will ever have to worry about it again, even though they couldn’t remove it entirely!  I was totally overwhelmed by God’s goodness and mercy in giving me such complete healing!  The prayers of so many people on my behalf during this time were truly humbling and encouraging, and it was wonderful to be able to share this news, for when many people pray, many thanks can be rendered to God for His answer!

As I daily recovered my strength, it was great to be able to resume more and more normal activities, and when school started back up in January, I was able to go back to teaching.  It really only took about a week before I really felt like I was back into the swing of things, and in fact, in many ways I felt even better than I had before the surgery!

God has continued to give me many opportunities to share what He did through all of this, and to Him be all the glory for everything, for He is truly sovereign in every detail of life and wonderfully good in everything that He allows!  I would not trade this experience, because I learned so much through it – especially about what the Body of Christ looks like when it is truly functioning as God intends it to, the nearness of God that we can most fully experience when we are hurting the most or feeling the most needy, and His absolute sovereignty in every detail of our lives!  I praise Him for entrusting me with this small trial, so that I can be better able to be an encouragement to others with the same comfort that God gave to me during this time!

One of the verses that became especially precious to me through all this is Psalm 59:16 –

“I will sing of Your strength and will
joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning.  For You have been a
stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.”  CSB

Truly, God is my strength, my joy, and my refuge, and life’s trials only serve to make that truth more real and more precious than ever!

 This next testimony is from the heart of a beautiful friend named Kay who lives in Alabama.  I learned so much and was extremely encouraged by what she shared, and I know you will be, too.  Thank you, Kay!

 

My Cancer Journey . . .

– When your Mom gets breast cancer and you’re in elementary school, and when she passes away from it when you’re 12, you always have in the back of your mind that you’re going to get breast cancer, too.

– So when you find your first lump at 16, have it removed and it comes back benign, you’re relieved.

– And when you start having mammograms at 30, and they routinely show lumps that are non-cancerous you are relieved.

– And when you have a lump that doesn’t change, but doesn’t go away, you don’t really worry, but you get it checked out.  But, when the hospital Breast Cancer Center calls you back, and you walk in and see the doctor and the head of the BC Support Group, and before they even open their mouths, you know “this is the moment you’ve been dreading for 36 years!,” you’re still shocked, surprised, and numb.

At that point I was thankful for 3 specific things in my life: an amazing husband, a wonderful care team, and God’s immeasurable grace.
The medical care team told me they believed we had caught it early, but that we would need to do some more testing.  At that point things flew very quickly.  I was glad I’d thought through what I’d do, because you have to make life-altering, and body-altering decisions rather rapidly.

I chose a completely traditional medicine approach at that time.  If I had it to do again, I would probably do it differently – but I trust that God had me where he wanted me when He wanted me, so I choose to have no regrets. The doctors thought lumpectomy might be enough. With my history (which also included positive aunts on my father’s side), I chose double mastectomy.

Following surgery, the doctors told me they were glad for my decision; they found tumors in both breasts that had not appeared in any diagnostic procedure. Mastectomy was the only logical choice, and it had been the choice God had led me to make.

I cannot describe God’s overwhelming presence throughout the entire journey. Frankly, sometimes I almost miss cancer because I miss that extra grace that God gives in trials like that.  And, when you know your life is in God’s hands, you can trust that He is in control and going to do with it was it best for you and best for bringing glory to His name. Period.

I had many extra opportunities to talk with others about the Lord during this time. Many could not understand peace in the midst of my storm. On the other side, many were a great encouragement to me during this time.  I started a Facebook Page (link here) just to keep everyone updated. It was a HUGE comfort to ask for prayer and KNOW that friends were truly praying for me.  It was also very cathartic to be able to write out what I was going through each step of the way.  I’m also encouraged to go back and read through God’s provision and presence at every single step.

What did people say “right?”  “I’m praying for you” and “I love you” were always the best!  I loved the specific people – “we pray for you every day at breakfast!” or “the kids and I pray for you each night at bedtime.”  It reminded me that, if I was feeling bad at 8:00, the family that put their kids to bed at 8:00 was praying for me! Also the tangible “what can I do?” was wonderful.  It was offered often, but the ones who really waited and listened for me to answer were special. Also those who gave me permission to have bad days and a shoulder to cry on, even if words were never spoken were a blessing.

What did people say “wrong?” “OH, that’s terrible! My Grandma died from that!” or “Have fun in the bedroom now, you won’t be attractive to your hubby after they cut your breasts off!”  “Oh, you must be so terrified for your daughters!” (That one WAS one of my greatest fears, and I had to address it with the Lord. But someone reminding me really didn’t help anything!) Yeah, those three were pretty bad! Most of the time, people were great! Sometimes people put their foot in their mouth – but we usually just laughed together after that. I appreciated the effort and the selflessness of trying to say something sweet, even if it came out wrong.

If you found out you had cancer today, I’d encourage you to pause. And then pray. I was grateful for quick care. But, frankly, there really was no rush. We’d been watching things for over 6 months; we could have waited 6 more months and little would have changed.  Pray and ask God to guide you (and spouse, if you are fortunate enough to have one involved). Then seek the counsel of those who have walked the path already. I learned more from other “survivors” than I did from Google, WebMD, medical journals, and the American Cancer Society together! Then pray some more and ask God to direct your specific path. Talk with your pastor and pastor’s wife.  They probably have a great deal more experience with “big things” than you do – even if it’s not cancer. Then walk your path with peace and confidence.

Our purpose on this planet is to glorify God. Psalm 86:12 tells us:

“I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.” KJV

I also found comfort in Philippians 1:20:

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” KJV

 

Frankly, if God wanted me to die from cancer, everything would be better because of it. He had a plan, and I was blessed to be a part of that plan.

 

I’m thankful I’m still here. But I remind myself, am I glorifying God today as much as I was when I was walking the path of breast cancer?  Cancer, in its own way, was something God allowed in my life that drew me closer to Him – and for that I am thankful.

 

This last testimony is from the mom of a dear college friend.  Thank you, Donna in California!  You are a blessing.

 

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME

It was about the beginning of December that I noticed something wasn’t quite right.  I made an appointment, and a verse started going through my mind – we had the sentence of death in ourselves.   The nurse practitioner found a large mass and seemed alarmed.  She told me to schedule a mammogram and ultrasound.  Thenext day the verse went through my mind again and I was by myself: “Lord, are you trying to telling me I am going to die?”

I stopped what I was doing and looked up the verse: II Corinthians 1:8-11:

“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble
which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength,
insomuch that we despaired even of life (sounds like cancer surgery, chemotherapy, being sick as a dog, and finding out you
have Stage IV cancer
):  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but
in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth
deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us: Ye also helping together
by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many
persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” KJV

 

I want to just make a plea here for you to familiarize yourself with God’s word.  It is so easy to do that in this day and age, with all the technology available to us.  You can listen to scripture on your iPod or iPad, download it, put it on CD’s, hear it in your car or when you are getting ready in the morning, you can get preaching from Sunday (online) – there are so many ways to get the Bible in to renew your mind – what a harvest of blessings that will bring to you!

You know, God really is good all the time.  He knows I am prone to worry.  He knew I might just fall apart if I got news of cancer.  So, He gave me these verses ahead of time, so I wouldn’t go off the deep end and despair.  I haven’t been upset about having cancer.  Other people are more upset than I am.  God was good to prepare me.

I had the mammogram and ultrasound, and the doctor said he saw something and scheduled a biopsy.  Three days before my biopsy, I was asked to play the offertory for Sunday. I chose Be Still My Soul. The phrase kept jumping out at me – in every change, He faithful will remain. God will be faithful to me in every change.

On January 22nd

I found out it was breast cancer and the doctor who gave me the news was so sweet.  I really was doing fine until she started being sympathetic and told me to put my trust in God.  That made me cry, and she cried with me. My Bible reading for that day was Exodus 14-16: 14:13 says, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today.” God told me in His word that morning, before I went to the appointment,
not to be afraid.

The oncologist said, “This is a sneaky kind of cancer.”  It’s not a lump – I never felt a lump – it’s a thickening, so it’s harder to detect.  And it’s lobular, so it doesn’t show up on a mammogram until it is very large.  She told us what our options were and one of them was the mastectomy and reconstruction.

Obviously, what I think is best for me would be no cancer.  But God had something else in mind.  If you had asked me 5 months ago if I thought it would be good for me to have cancer I would have said, “Of course not!”  But if it is true that God only does what is best for me, then it is good for me to have cancer.

We’ve been praying for some loved ones, to be saved, for some time now – and we don’t really know if they are unsaved or just away from the Lord.  One of them responded positively to an email update.  If I had to get cancer in order for him to get right with the Lord, it’s totally worth it. If I have to endure some light affliction in order for his immortal soul to be in heaven one day – that’s such a small price to pay.  I’ve always wished I could be able to reach some of my coworkers for the Lord, and this cancer has really opened doors for me. I want them to see that God is good, all the time … even when you get cancer.

My pastor came over that day and prayed with us and said he agrees with me about my verses and feels the Lord is going to use this cancer for ministry to others.  He gave me Philippians 1:29:

 For unto you it is given (it’s a gift) in the behalf of
Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”  KJV

 

Suffering is a gift from God.  He said there are 3 reasons people suffer – for stupidity, for sin, and for service.  And part of the reason may be stupidity – I hadn’t had a mammogram for 8 years, so we might have caught it sooner, but maybe not since it’s so hard to detect.  My doctor did say I have had this cancer for years.  (I just want to put in a little plug here.  If you do need to get a mammogram, you are better off to get the thermal kind, so you are not getting all that radiation.)

He said God is not doing this to me, He is doing this for me.  Then he gave us Psalm 71:18. I love this one:

“Now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not;
until I have showed thy strength unto this generation and thy power to every
one that is to come.” KJV

God will use this to show His power to my children and my grandchildren.  I was actually kind of excited about having cancer.  I do want my children and grandchildren to love God and cling closely to Him all their days.

I thought I was handling everything pretty well, but even if our minds are doing well, our bodies can be reacting to the stress. That night I had flashing lights on the side of my vision that last for several minutes.  Before my appointment (to check my eyes), I went to a nutrition class for cancer patients, and saw a man with a scar from one ear to the other, over the top of his head, and his hair was just starting to grow back.  I thought, Oh my word, he must have brain cancer!

After class I told my nurse about the flashing lights and I said, “You don’t think that could have anything to do with my breast cancer, do you?”  She said, “Well, breast cancer goes to the brain, so your doctor will probably order a brain scan, in fact she’ll probably order a full body scan, just to make sure.”

I went to the car and cried.  I don’t mind having breast cancer, but I don’t want to have brain cancer. I found out it was an eye migraine caused by stress.  The Lord has given me grace for breast cancer because I have breast cancer … and that’s why I’m okay with it.  But He has not given me grace for brain cancer, because I don’t have brain cancer.

Some of you may think, “I could never handle what she’s going through!”  Yes, you could.  If God gives that to you, He will also give you the grace to bear it.  Grace is spiritual strength.  It is that ability to be obedient to our Savior, even under pressure.  It’s what keeps us from falling under the load.  You will have the spiritual strength to endure whatever the Lord brings into your life because He’s a good God.

The end of that week I had a biopsy of the lymph node that was positive for cancer, and later had a bone scan that showed cancer all down my spine and in my pelvis.  So, I am Stage IV.  Once breast cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, there is no cure. They still felt I needed surgery, so I went ahead and had a 9 hour surgery at UCLA that included the mastectomy, removal of 60 lymph nodes (59 of which were cancerous) and the reconstruction.  Just before surgery I was tempted to be frightened.  But, I had taken a verse with me to the hospital (Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts … and be ye thankful”). That verse calmed me right down, and I started thinking of all my blessings. I remembered all the cards, emails, kind words and prayers going up for me.  There are some perks to having cancer – you find out how much everyone loves you.  I was thankful for my husband and all my wonderful family.  I felt very loved and cared for.

Right now I am doing very well.  I don’t have any symptoms, I don’t have any pain.  The Lord has been so good to me.  I haven’t had to endure what most cancer patients go through.  I didn’t have to have chemotherapy and be sick or lose my hair.  My treatment is a pill I take every day and then I get a shot once a month.  I have a couple more out-patient surgeries for reconstruction. I do have Stage IV cancer, but my doctor said I could live for years on this treatment.

I hope all this has helped you realize how good God is and that you can trust Him with anything, even that hard thing that makes you tremble.

 

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Ten "Going Crazy" Tips

“Call the Funny Farm!”  Not if, but when is the last time you were in a position of confusion, exhaustion, discouragement and/or grief, and you felt someone must quickly provide emergency intervention?  If you’re like me, it was as recent as yesterday or this morning. Stressful moments, from mildly irritating to incredibly difficult, come to all of us!  They can sneak up as a complete surprise.  They can also be predictable.  Can you relate to some of these?

  • Full schedule
  • Homeschooling (especially on wet or cold days after we’ve been inside for too long!)
  • Times of transition
  • Weddings
  • Holidays
  • Illness or injury
  • Hormones
  • New member in the family
  • A time of loss
  • Financial strain
  • Job tension
  • When disappointed by people or circumstances
  • When we sin against or disappoint people 
  • When we receive bad news
  • Reorganization at work or church
  • During a move/remodel
  • Etc!

How do you deal with your craziness? It really is a good thing that our lives aren’t completely trouble free.  If they were, where would our need be for God?  You’ve probably heard these before, but I’m praying that God will use something here to encourage you, dear Sister!  Here are a few of my favorite “Crazy” tips:

1.  Rest

As soon as possible do whatever it takes to get much needed rest.  My two boys, six and four, are pretty much beyond naps.  Yet, we still have a 1 1/2 hour reading/quiet time in the middle of the day.  It is helpful for everyone.  My six-year-old actually looks forward to it!  If you are anything like me, everything seems much worse when I am overly tired.  And my exhaustion can be a sign that my priorities are out of kilter.  My doing too much can be attibuted to my own pride. 

Whenever necessary (not more than once per day :)), get your kids occupied with a good video and go to your room, close the door, put on your MP3 player or a good set of earplugs, lay flat on the floor and stretch your arms above your head while breathing in and out slowly.  Here is one of my helpers:

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2


2.  Eat

It really can be as simple as taking time to nourish ourselves.  My tendency is to crave chocolate and potato chips, but these usually make me feel worse.  At the risk of sounding like your mother, eat well and drink lots of water.  Grill some chicken, make a salad, grab an apple.  Go through a drive-thru and buy a salad if you can afford it.  Indulge in the food you are craving, if you must.  But, don’t go overboard, and don’t resort to splurging as a daily escape from reality.  Popcorn is a calming snack, as is a banana.  I love it that when Elijah was tired, afraid, and discouraged God did not berate him and condemn him.  God isn’t condemning us: let us not condemn ourselves.  Enjoy some of God’s good gifts – eat!

“Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan.  And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.’” I Kings 17:2-4


3.  Remember you are in a spiritual battle.

Too easily I forget that I am a soldier in a spiritual war.  I’m sure that my forgetfulness, and the ensuing consequences, makes Satan very happy.  We should expect daily battles!  You think your temptations regarding food isn’t part of your spiritual battle?  What was Eve’s first spiritual battle about?  Yet, what we are really fighting against is far more gigantic than people, circumstances or food:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age” Ephesians 6:12


Would we go to the hottest site in Afghanistan unarmed?  No way.  Give me the largest tank and a wide selection of the most accute bombs available.  So then, how can we expect to face spiritual battles unarmed?  There is no option here.  We must eat, we must breath, we must be in God’s Word!  Especially during days of pressure, weakness, doubt, and possible depression, begin the day by putting on the armor of God, by reading and praying through Ephesians 6:10-20 (you can read it by clicking on the link below):


And, remember, we are on the winning side.

“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4

We must take time to read God’s love letter to us and . . .

4.  Pray

We cannot begin to estimate the power of talking to God.  Pour out your heart to Him!  If writing is your thing, grab a pen and paper or a computer and write your prayers to God.  It will help you to get it out of your system and leave it with the One Who has the power to work 24/7 for your good and His glory.  If you write it down it will also help you gain perspective on your problems.  How precious that our almighty God took on flesh and came to this wicked world.  He cried our tears, sharing our sorrows:

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15,16


5.  Talk to a godly friend. Ask for help! 

One of the highlights of Sunday is talking briefly with a friend at church about how we can pray for one another throughout the coming week.  And I can’t remember the number of times I have sent emergency emails or Facebook messages to ask sisters to pray for me.  It is an immediate relief to be reminded that we are not alone.  Don’t worry that you will be bothering someone (unless this is the 5th time you’ve called them today!). 

I do want to stress GODLY friend.  Not perfect (there aint any!), but growing.  Who is a godly friend?  One who is going to love you, show you grace, not judge you . . . but, also someone who is going to tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.  Call the friend who listens, cares, and points you to Jesus.

We recently heard Todd Wilson, of FamilyMan Ministries, speak to our local homeschool parents group.  He spoke of a woman who called his wife and asked if she could come over to talk to her.  They started with small talk, but soon the conversation got deeper.  The visiting woman, one of whom Todd said we would all look at as the ultimate godly woman, quoting Scripture and giving glory to God, shared a personal hurt with Todd’s wife.  She told of a time two years before when she had been studying her Bible and her little girl kept interrupting and trying to get Mama’s attention.  The woman grabbed her little girls wrist too hard and broke it.  Since then the mother had been in agony.  As she shared her burden with this godly friend, she was able to breath and move on.  Todd’s wife didn’t condemn her, but instead told her things like, “Oh, I am so sorry!  Any one of us could’ve done the same thing!  I know you didn’t mean to do it.” (Todd even humorously admitted wanting to share some personal experience/not-so-good advice, “I understand . . . I’ve often felt like I wanted to break every bone in my child’s body!”)  Finally, this Christian sister was able to move on with her life.  Sometimes we just need to confess our mistakes or sins to a godly friend.

“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16

6.  Forget the past and move on. 

If your stress has to do with your past (twenty years ago or yesterday), God wants you to forget it and move one.  If you need to apologize, write the letter, make the visit, or pick up the phone.  Even if people are hesitant to forgive.  God is always ready to forgive us!

If you have been sinned against and are constantly plagued by bad memories, practice giving these burdens to God – the more you do it the easier it will get to give them over to Him and not grab them back.  If you are obsessing, ask God to change your mind and literally get up and move into a different room and do a different activity.  A Christian counselor recommended this when I was obsessing about death after a close call, and it really helped me.  It is so refreshing when we can look forward to the future, entrusting our past and our future to God’s excellent care!

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14


7.  Plan something to look forward to. 

We women have the privilege of serving the people in our lives: cooking, cleaning, driving people to appointments, cards, listening, etc.  But we get worn out and need to be recharged.  Get out your calendar and look for the first free space – plan a date with your husband or a friend.  If other people are too busy, plan a date for yourself – go out and get a coffee or ice cream, read a favorite book, sit by a beautiful lake and soak in God’s beauty.  And do it without feeling guilty!  God gives good gifts to His children!  He gave Jesus so that we can live more abundantly.

“And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.” Mark 6:31-32


8.  Claim your blessings. 

Reminiscent of Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book One Thousand Gifts, simply sit down and start writing down all the things you have to be thankful for.  Your list of “bad things” is much smaller than the “good things” . . . and you’ve probably realized why I set apart “good” and “bad” to remind us that our point of view is terribly limited.  What may seem bad to us may be what God is going to use to do amazingly good things in our lives.

Ask God to help you be thankful for where you are right now, including all the yucky stuff.  He can and will give strength to help us be genuinely thankful for trials. All we need to do is ask and wait on Him.  God highly treasures our sacrifice of praise.

“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15

9.  Cry and Breathe

Just a couple days ago I let it all out in my room, boo-hooing and doing some much needed grieving.  I felt so much better afterward. Crying purges!  It rids our bodies of toxins. Crying is part of what God has given to help us release some of the pent-up emotional pressure.  These verses are probably familiar to you, so I want to share them in a translation other than the NKJV to give another perspective.

“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 (NLT)


If you are not a cryer, take a brisk walk, work out, release that stress somehow (and I don’t mean hurling a pan over your husband’s head!).  And as our sweet more mature friends gently remind us, “This too shall pass.” 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

10.  Pick One

Think of five people you know who are going through a trial right now (not including yourself).  Plan how you, or you along with your family, can do something simple and special for him or her. 

If you have a neighbor who just broke her arm, offer to rake her leaves.  If you have a friend who just went through surgery, take a meal or a happy balloon over with a favorite coffee.  Fresh flowers can be an extravagant gift making people feel loved, but most women I know prefer plants that aren’t going to die (unless they have thumbs not even close to the color of green and are thankful that after a short while their flowers die naturally 🙂 ).

I have a friend who has been suffering with depression. Just a phone call meant the world to him and helped him to be brave enough to seek the help he needed.  I praise God that He used little ol’ me to help a brother in need, and at the same time get my mind off my own troubles.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

I hope something in this list will help you during this crazy time of life!  The best thing to remember as women on God’s mission, we are not alone, and God is lovingly continuing the good work He started in us.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” Isaiah 41:10
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”  Philippians 1:6

Do You Need a Makeover?

There is an old street near our library, adjacent to the town square, that still has its original bricks. They must have been solid and attractive years ago, but these days the gigantic rivulets, careening potholes, and jagged edges only seem to be capable of rattling my brain and nerves.  I almost feel guilty taking an alternate route, because I absolutely appreciate the idea of treasuring our past and keeping history alive.  However, there comes a time when what was useful no longer is useful.  Improvements need to be made. 
As I was riding the waves on the old brick road last night, an image came into my mind of a woman beyond her teenage years, trying to look and act as if she still is a teenager.  Have you seen her? Instead of convincing us she is young, we find ourselves feeling a little bit embarrassed for her. The young look used to be quaint, but it doesn’t work for her anymore.
What Is Beautiful?
Some of the most beautiful women I know are far beyond “29 and holding”! They choose cheerful, modest clothing; avoiding too tight, too short, too low, unnatural make-up, and pigtails.  Their communication is filled with grace, humor, dignity and humility.  They keep a style that fits their personality and is becoming to them, somehow reaching a balance of drawing people to them without bringing too much attention to self.  If I could put it in a nutshell . . .
  •  They are confident in God’s love for them.
  •  They are secure in God’s grace which supercedes their sin.
  •  They are in love with God more than anything or anyone else.
  •  They love others with Christ’s love.

They aren’t perfect.  Even mature women struggle with “the uglies” – physical, emotional, and spiritual battles which affect their inner and outer beauty.  The difference is that they have learned to focus on Christ, the One whose opinion really matters.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:11, 13
God’s Plan For Our Beauty

God is patiently calling us, drawing us, loving us.  He wants us to receive His free gift of salvation.  He then chips away at the ugly sin in our lives, uncovering the masterpiece He’s had in mind all along.  If we are willing, He will make us more useful and more beautiful for Him.

When I look at a picture of myself from twenty-five years ago, I see a shy teenage girl, wearing a pastel plaid blouse and a string of white beads.  “Who is that?”  It seems like a lifetime ago.  Do you think I would look silly wearing the same outfit and acting like a fifteen-year-old at age thirty-nine?  Yes, of course.

Yet, spiritually speaking, when my spiritual birthday comes around every April (see My Testimony to find out more), I am humbled and ashamed that I am not more mature in my faith.  My heart cries out, God help me not to be carried away by every emotion and circumstance – help me be strong and mature in who You are, thus who I am in Your eyes.

What about you?  Are you “acting your age” physically, emotionally, and spiritually? 

1.  Physically . . .  Do you need to make a trip to donate old clothes, calling in a friend with the “dressing gene” to help you build a new wardrobe?  Shopping for bargains takes practice.  And sometimes you need to spend a little more money to invest in an outfit that becomes you.  We don’t need a closet full!  We just need a few outfits that work well.

2.  Emotionally . . .  Are you holding onto habits that are pulling you down, keeping you from being the best you can be for God?  Are there some hurts you need to forgive and fears to need to forsake?  God is waiting to help you.

3.  Spiritually . . .  Compared to one year ago, are you more like Christ?  Are you more patient?  Are you less critical of others?  Do you run to people or God first?  Are you encouraging the faith of those around you, even if they are at a different place of growth than you? 

These are tough questions, but there is no need to fret.  Spirituality isn’t some grand robe of accomplishment you earn when you reach certain level of faith – it is the direction you are going.  Are you going toward God or away from Him?

I would like to look better, to be sure.  But, if I were offered a free makeover, I would worry that the person “remaking” me would turn me into someone who doesn’t reflect my personality and preferences. I might hate my new look, be confused about my identity, not be able to maintain the new regimen, or get a big head about my cuteness! 

While I continue to try to keep my outward appearance fresh and current, I usually choose to invest more energy in getting to know my Creator.  He specializes in spiritual makeovers.  And His sense of style is perfect.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Proverbs 31:30

 

Image courtesy of http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/

I Like Salt


Do you have a sweet tooth or a salty one?  I am blessed with both.  But, if I had to choose between a restaurant appetizer or dessert … I’d probably pick cheesy fries over cheesecake. 

This past week, salt took on an entirely new dimension for me.  My sister Sharon highly recommends sea salt and vinegar potato chips dipped in Trader Joe’s salmon pate’.  Intense!  It was a pretty good mix, once I got used to the strong punch.  When I told Sharon about my startled reaction to her delicacy she laughed, using her waving arms to demonstrate, she said “I can feel the spray of the salty sea air blowing on my face when I eat those chips!” 

The Power of Salt
Our assorted palettes are fascinating. The blandest foods I’ve ever eaten were in Sweden and England.  When I visited Sweden, I was surprised to find that at most hamburger stands mashed potatoes are a popular option!  Swedish people typically like more bland foods: I am not a typical Svenska flicka (Swedish girl – my Mom is 100% Swedish).  If my taste buds are any indication, I must be a classic combination of Greek, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, and Mexican.

But, some flavors are too much for me.  For three years I lived in an apartment above a nice Vietnamese family.  For months the fragrance of their spices around dinner time gave me a headache and made me feel sick to my stomach; I could only imagine how their food tasted.  An Indonesian friend told me that his people tend to love spicy foods and that most Indonesian women like their food even hotter than what the men can handle, smiling as sweat pours off their face at the table.  My apologies if you are the exception: I’m sure there are varied taste buds in every culture.

What Flavor Am I?
Jesus said to His followers, 

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13

          In God’s eyes, am I salty? 

                   And if I am salty, am I 100% salty? 

                          And if I am not 100% salty, am I still salty? 

Clearly, salt can lose its flavor. If it is contaminated with dirt or dust, it is no longer of value.   The contamination of sin in my life diminishes the saltiness God calls for in me.  My saltiness (Christlikeness) should cause those around me to feel as though they’ve eaten a tasty, savory snack when they are with me, causing them to thirst for Living Water.  Jesus is the only One Who can fill our deepest cravings and quench our thirsty souls.

Everything we eat (with the possible exception of plain rice cakes) has a flavor.  And most every food leaves an aftertaste. Compare how you would feel after tasting cod liver oil versus your favorite dessert: strawberry shortcake.  Quite different, right?!  And which one do you prefer?  That’s a silly question!

What kind of taste do you leave in people’s mouths after they spend time with you? 

Worth Your Weight In Salt
For a moment, imagine spending a day with Lot’s wife.  I can’t say that she’s on my “Top One Hundred Women I’d Like To Meet” list.  She looked for satisfaction in earthly things, and was no doubt left wanting.  She loved her earthly possessions more than God – walking by sight instead of faith.  As a result of Mrs. Lot’s poor choices, she became too salty, or salt of the wrong kind: frozen in time as a pillar of salt, alone and of use to nobody, including herself, herself and God.

We can become pure delightful saltiness by allowing God to refine us into 100% pure godly salt!  And our saltiness shouldn’t attract people to us … rather to Christ IN us. The savory flavor of Christ should be tasted in our:

1.   Words
“[Let] your speech always [be] with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6

2.   Attitude
Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Mark 9:50b

3.  Influence
“Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, ‘Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’ ” 2 Kings 2:21

The next time we munch a lip-smacking snack, let’s remember to thank God for the opportunity we have to be salt for Him!
Pretzel image courtesy of Microsoft Office Free Images Online.

Beauty is a Choice – Part 2

George Macdonald said, ‘If you knew what God knows about death you would clap your listless hands’, but instead I find old people in North America just buying this whole youth obsession. I think growing older is a wonderful privilege. I want to learn to glorify God in every stage of my life.
                                                                                                                               – Elizabeth Elliot

Tim often tells me “I have a hole in my heart the shape of your figure.” To Tim, I am beautiful.  But, when I look in the mirror, I see every flaw. It is so easy for me to get sucked into a worldly view of beauty without even realizing it.

It was smooth sailing until age 27. All of a sudden, this skinny kid couldn’t eat as much as before. During our engagement I meticulously monitored every bite. After the wedding, like most people, I relaxed and gained some weight. Now, after five pregnancies (two live births and three miscarriages) I have experienced first-hand the battle of the bulge and feel my age creeping up on me. Sometimes I detect jealousy in my heart when I observe younger women, full of youth and vitality. This year I’ve enjoyed going to the gym, and I’m happy to report that I’ve seen some of that energy return. Strength training is a beauty tip I learned from the Virtuous Woman herself … “She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms.” Proverbs 31:17

While God is working to make me someone truly beautiful, from the inside out, for His glory (not mine), He has given me wonderful examples of beauty that touch me to the depths of my soul. 

Please let me introduce to you my dear friend Rayetta. Rayetta is known for being a vibrant, successful Mary Kay representative (she earned a pink car!), a committed Christian, a concerned and involved citizen, always dressed to the hilt with perfect accessories, so gorgeous that anyone would take a second glance at her. But, her outward beauty would mean nothing without her inner beauty shining through: her posture reflects confidence in God, while her radiant smile and bubbly laughter springs up like a shimmering fountain, spilling Jesus onto everyone she meets. Her loving arms and open heart have welcomed hundreds of exchange students from around the world into her home. She not only believes in God, she LIVES with Him and for Him. She is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met.

Last night, however, physically speaking, the woman I saw was a shadow of the Rayetta I once knew. You see, my 65-year-old friend was recently told by her doctors that her earthly life will end in a matter of days, weeks or just a couple months. After an on-off fight which began years ago with breast cancer, she now has tumors over-taking her brain. We pray for healing, but we are prepared to let her go to be with God.

My dear friend Rayetta
The picture above is worth a thousand words … love shines through her cloudy eyes … she looks peaceful under her pretty scarf … her still adorable, warm quivering smile speaks, “I’m so glad to be here with you!” Every word is thankful, others-focused. Rayetta’s unquenchable faith in God and assurance of Heaven radiates from her words of praise and thanks to God, for loving friends and a Savior who took her sins upon Himself at the cross. Rayetta is more beautiful than ever!

So, go ahead – keep buying face creams, foundation, mascara and modest lovely clothes that compliment your smile. Both Aunt Helen (see Beauty Is a Choice – Part 1) and Rayetta would encourage us to look our best, as earthly representatives of Christ. But, invest MORE of your time and energy in eternal beauty:

  • Bathe yourself in the blood of Jesus
  • Beautify your eyes by digging into the Word of God
  • Groom your soul by praying without ceasing
  • Flush out bitterness and apply the balm of forgiveness
  • Curl your smile to uplift those around you
  • Shield your eyes from the glare of comparison
  • Wear plenty of Son-screen to protect you from the harmful rays of Satan’s lies
  • Before taking medication, focus on meditation and memorization of God’s precious Word
  • Exercise grace to edify, speak the truth in love, pointing others to God
  • Wear the delicate fragrance of a meek (boldness under control) and quiet spirit
  • Thank God for your struggle with weight and how it drives you to depend on Him more
  • During your pedicure thank God for your feet and ask Him how He can use them to take you places to minister in His name.

True beauty is Christlikeness.  Look in the Bible to find the clearest mirror of all.  Through it God will reveal what you need to change in your life.  He wants to help you become less focused on self and more dependent on Him.  The more you know and appreciate God, the more beautiful you will become.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;  for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.” James 1:22-24


I look forward to my heavenly glorified body!  It will be so restful not to have to worry about calories and cellulite.  But, I am absolutely certain that when I am in the presence of my beautiful Savior, I will be in awe of Him – nothing else will matter.

“Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” Psalm 29:2