I made friends with my enemy

I made friends with my enemy

Strength is measured in how you handle weakness.

I’m trying to find the sweet spot; the balance between love and hate. I hate it but I need it. Since I apparently can’t function without it, I’m  learning to live with it. Strength is measured in how you handle weakness.

ANDRENALINE

Although I haven’t been on a roller coaster since I developed myasthenia gravis, I love the feel of wind in my hair and adrenaline in my veins. The beating of wings in my stomach just before the car reaches the peak and plummets down the big drop gives me a rush. Except I am stuck there. Welcome to the world of steroids. Stuck at the top, anticipating the thrill but the thrill never becomes reality and the feeling never goes away. It robs my sleep, it robs my bones and to be honest, it makes me a little nutty at times. I suppose there is a reason it’s called an emotional roller coaster. I love roller coasters, but not emotional ones and I hate prednisone.

1 Peter 4:12-13, “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.”MSG

NECESSARY EVIL

A couple of months ago I was riding my bicycle short distances and I hiked to Hawksbill Crag, then I got cocky. Six days late on my IVIG infusion and and determined to wean off prednisone, my optimism convinced me remission was around the corner. When I thought I was strong, I got weaker, not just physically. Now I know, the evil steroids are necessary and I must stay tethered to the pump on a pole for seven hours every three weeks. Period.

James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” ESV

TETHERED

The key to finding joy in trials is to stay tethered to the One who knows your pain, knows your limitations and suffered innocently so we wouldn’t be separated eternally. As soon as I get stronger I tend to drift. I think I can forgo the remedy. It’s the nature of the beast-the disease and my spiritual walk. So I get out my Bible, my index cards and my prayer journal and attach myself to Jesus Christ. Some days I just need a little more tape. My heart is prone to wander and must be tightly bound.

1 Peter 4:1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve-because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin.” HCSB

FIX MY EYES

My moon face is gone though I still cringe when I see photos of myself. Sorry, I’ll work on the sin of vanity another day. By the way, is that camera lying or did someone take me apart like Mrs. Potato Head and put my eyes back on all wonky? Goodness, I think I’ll throw the mirror away. I admit I am dependent. I resolve to look up and focus on the joy.

Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”NASB

ENDURE

At 5 milligrams of prednisone the diabetes melted away and the fatigue was conquered, but I couldn’t do anything. I know I look normal, you can’t tell when I am struggling to chew meatloaf. When I had to rest after applying makeup it was time to make friends with my enemy, so I increased the dose. I want to live a little. Actually, I’m greedy. I want to be strong and firm and steadfast-physically and spiritually. Oddly, It requires complete dependence.

1 Peter 4:10, “And the god of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” NIV

We all have weaknesses. We all need to be tethered to Christ. He is strong and able to hold us together. Storms are inevitable and some are hurricanes. Make sure you are tightly bound to the Rock. Anchor yourself to Him and you will survive. So will I.

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I should have killed the mike

 

no one cared I was off key
no one cared I was off key

My ears perked up. Sitting in the next to last row I heard a voice singing behind me – a voice which undoubtedly belonged in the choir. Except she can’t be in the choir because she sits with her precious granddaughter, whom she is raising. The child isn’t be more than nine years old, but she has the range of an adult. I’m talking she can seriously belt it out. She sings with exuberance despite the tragedies in her young life. The joy of Jesus flows like fresh living water out of this child who recently emerged from the baptismal waters, not long after she emerged from fire. We were singing a song way out of my range. Okay, let’s face it, I don’t have a range.

Psalm 95:1, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.” KJV

I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT PITCH AND KEY ARE

No one ever sat in front of me and thought I belonged in the choir. Instead they likely thought their ears were under aerial assault. So really, I should have killed the mike. Instead I sang. Do you hear me? I sang. With a live mike. On purpose.

For the first time in my  life I sang in harmony. Not musical harmony mind you; spiritual harmony.

John 4:23, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” NIV

NO ONE CARED

I don’t even think they noticed I was off key or pitch or whatever I am supposed to be on. At least if they did they didn’t care. Because it wasn’t about me, it was about worship. So I sang into the live mike,

Oh How I Love JesusThis is my story

And it was a little taste of Heaven.

Revelation 7:9-10, “I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there-all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing: Salvation to our God on his Throne! Salvation to the Lamb!” MSG

TRUE HARMONY

Recently I have had opportunities to speak at several events among diverse denominations. Singing a capela around the campfire the pleasing blend of coordinated melodies rose with the smoke like an aroma of worship ascending toward Heaven. And God was there. The previous night, I soaked in uninhibited praise with arms raised and bodies swaying in front of the altar. The Holy Spirit was there. The week before, I bounced up and down with a vibrant band at an interfaith conference. The presence of the Lord was in that place too. How we worshiped didn’t matter, what mattered is that God showed up.

Revelation 19:1, “After this I heard something like the loud voice of a vast multitude in heaven, saying: Hallelujah! Salvation, glory, and power belong to our God.” HCSB

HALLELUJAH

With the exception of small spelling variations Hallelujah is the same in nearly every language. My personal favorite is  the Japanese translation ハレルヤ Hareruya but I think it’s because it sounds like what the Jetson’s dog Astro sang in Chris Rice’s silly song What if Cartoons got Saved.

Maybe we all need to get out of our comfort zones. I love my church and I love the way we worship mixing traditional with a sweet spirit,  but it was pretty amazing to experience women locking arms and dancing a criss-cross pattern through the sanctuary while singing:

Hava nageli, hava nerenena

I’m not sure what it means but I think it’s the language Jesus spoke.

In the spring I visited my local Catholic church and received the ashes on my forehead. I think I accidentally broke protocol but I hope they will let me return this year on Ash Wednesday. The ceremony was meaningful because God dealt with my heart and that is precisely where worship begins.

Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” ESV

So worship. If you find yourself in need, worship. If you find yourself with plenty, worship. If you want God to show up, worship. If you are wondering where God is then remember, He inhabits the praises of His people. Worship with all your brothers and sisters in Christ. Not by protocol, not by tradition, but in spirit and in truth. Worship the One worthy of praise.

Be bold and leave the microphone on too.

What is on the other side?

What is on the other side?

Most people have the date of their death etched onto their tombstone. My friend, Mike, writes his on a piece of cardboard with a Sharpie pen.

BEFORE AND AFTER

Unfortunately, my life is divided into before I was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG) and after. I don’t want to be defined by my disease but nevertheless it characterizes every aspect of my life. In many ways, my illness is the axis on which I turn. When I go out in public I wonder if there is a neon sign on my forehead. Sunday I traded my neon sign for a cardboard one. Simple cardboard testimonies show complex life changes.

MY SIGN

Because of MG

I am weak

butHe is strong

2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” ESV

I not only boasted about my weakness, I wrote it on a piece of cardboard and held it up for as long as my trembling arms would cooperate.

CARDBOARD TESTIMONIES

We stood shoulder to shoulder with squares raised, and proclaimed God’s faithfulness in our pain and suffering. One side of cardboard proclaimed the deaths of spouses, children and unborn babies. Cancer, autism and heart disease showed up too. Chronic pain, illness, infertility and abuse stood beside job loss, divorce and alcoholism. Many of us know each other well, others only know the stories. Some we didn’t know at all, but their personal struggles were written in Sharpie pen for everyone to see.

Romans 8:28, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God:  those who are called according to His purpose.” HCSB

THE OTHER SIDE

As each of us flipped our cardboard signs, spontaneous applause echoed through the sanctuary. It reached a crescendo as the last one walked across the stage and we collectively raised our signs. Everyone stood to their feet and many wiped tears.

Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” KJV

WHAT IF?

The rejoicing was not in response to the first side, it was for the flip side; the side proclaiming God’s redemption in every difficult situation. Imagine if we held up the before and never turned it over. Who would applaud? Without God, who could rejoice in their pain, who would be restored from their addiction? Would there be any joy or hope?

Have you turned over your obstacle? Name your struggle, face your enemy and bring it into the open. I encourage you to literally write it down and confront it in ink. But please, don’t stop there. Flip it over and let God write the end of your story. He redeems all things.

Genesis 50:20, “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now – life for many people.” MSG

THERE IS ALWAYS A TEST IN TESTIMONY

It’s not the date you are born or the date you die that matters, but how the dash in between is lived. I guess Mike did pretty good with the first dash so he got a second one. My grandfather did that too. Mike’s flip side read,

Death-defying God

John 16:33, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” MSG

TURN IT AROUND

If you are facing adversity, write it on a piece of cardboard. Then turn it around and  let God write on the other side. He writes spectacular endings.

Joel 2:25, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” NIV

I feel like people are watching me

Somebody's watching

Don’t ever put me on a pedestal

I don’t want to do this anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it immensely, but you see, um, how do I say this without letting you down? “I am not qualified.” Frankly I am not good enough.

There are people out there who read what I write; people I don’t even know, people who are desperate for encouragement, hope and truth. It’s scary. When I attempt to speak into the lives of others, I often don’t measure up to my own teaching. I want to quit because it feels like a set up for failure. I don’t want to be a poser so I will be honest with you – I color outside the lines sometimes. If you have spent much time with me, you know it’s true. Everyone doesn’t know. Some people read my blog, hear me teach or speak and have an unrealistic perception of my life. I am not afraid of heights, but I am terrified of pedestals. Don’t ever put me there.

I am not afraid of heights, but I am terrified of pedestals. Don't ever put me… Click To Tweet
I’VE BEEN CAUGHT

Don’t make this into a bigger deal than it was, but recently I was recognized. Sitting in a theater, a group of women passed my table and recognized me from a recent speaking event. I fully expect to be in the spotlight when I speak, but not when I am at dinner. It’s a lot of pressure. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of my unedited words and my imperfect behavior. My mother was with me so I was behaving relatively well, but I don’t always. Am I a pretender?

2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, ‘Be reconciled to God.'” HCSB

NO, I AM AN AMBASSADOR

Don’t think I am a hypocrite, but the truth is I don’t always practice what I preach. But here’s the deal, I believe it. Mostly, I write to myself, encouraging myself to seek the Lord and follow Him. It would be safer to not make it public, but I’m thrilled to have your company along the way. Writing is a gamble. I figure some of you probably struggle with the same issues I do, so I willingly expose my own insecurities. It makes me feel uncomfortably vulnerable. People read it, people share it and more people read it. Then there I am, representing Jesus Christ for all the world to see.

Ephesians 5:15, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” ESV

UNWORTHY

Some days I want to quit. If I stop writing, I won’t embarrass myself. I can’t be criticized for what I don’t say. It is less risky to stay silent. That voice in my head saying, “Who do you think you are?” would be squashed and I wouldn’t have to deal with it anymore.

Ephesians 5:13, “Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.” MSG

RISKY BUSINESS

The only way I can continue is to admit failure, accept my imperfections and give credit to God for anything good you see in me. Here’s the truth: life is hard, consistency even harder. If I risk it all, is it worth it?

The voice of condemnation can drown out the gentle call of the Holy Spirit #perservere Click To Tweet

Hebrews 10:36, “For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.” HCSB

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Some of you may think I am really spiritual. While I would like for you to believe that, it would be dangerous. Besides, I will disappoint you. As a young adult, I sat in church every Sunday thinking everyone had it all together except me. It was a defeating lie. Honestly, it kept me from walking in victory and understanding grace. I strive for perfection and consistently fall short. I suppose that is the exact reason I need Jesus, huh? I’ll make a deal with you. I won’t quit if you won’t.

Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us.” NIV

YOU PROBABLY KNOW SOME STORIES ABOUT ME

Remember, I will moderate the comments, so if you dredge up some embarrassing moment from my past I may delete it, but probably not. I am mostly an open book. Otherwise, I’d be a hypocrite.

Photo cred: E. Clair

So what are you going to do about it?

Do something
Do something

His sagging eyes made his age difficult to determine. Half of his left arm was in a sling while the other half had escaped the protective cocoon. Struggling to maneuver a rolling walker which doubled as a seat, he approached the window and fished out his wallet. When he fumbled to open it, the receptionist offered to help retrieve the obligatory identification and insurance card. Bless her.

KINDNESS

Before sliding the glass window shut, she asked him to sit and promised someone would help him with paperwork. Not everyone is so kind.

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Words I never expected to say

No sir.
No sir.

NO OFFICER, I AM NOT CARRYING A GUN

Words I never expected to say on my way to speak at a Christian women’s conference. I was only breaking the law a little.

BLUE LIGHTS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR

When I saw the state trooper pull onto the interstate I was not concerned. I was cruising along with the flow of traffic. My speedometer tops out at 190 MPH, but I have no idea if my car really goes that fast because I don’t speed, at least not much. I have never had a speeding ticket in my life.

Eventually, I realized I had been selected from the other cars driving a few miles over the posted limit and I pulled to the shoulder. Dutifully retrieving my driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, I apparently forgot to mention my concealed carry permit.

The officer politely asked me if I knew how fast I was going.

I did

He asked if I was aware of the speed limit.

I was

With a knowing smile he asked if I had a reason for speeding. I pursed my lips and shook my head side to side. Nope. I woke up at 4:30 a.m., gathered my things the night before and was on target to arrive an hour and a half before I was scheduled to speak.

Truthfully, I thought it was a little silly to detain a law-abiding, upstanding citizen on her way to speak at a Christian conference. Then it hit me:

James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point is guilty of breaking it all.” NIV

LAW BREAKER

The speed limit on the interstate is 70 MPH. I was clocked at 77 MPH. Though I thought I deserved a little wiggle room, I broke the law. Plain and simple. No excuses. The limit was set at 70 MPH for my safety and my speed exceeded the law. His question was thought provoking. Why was I speeding?

MY DEFENSE

Sometimes I speed sin because I make poor choices and run late. Other times my speed sin drifts above the limit because I am not really paying attention.

Often it sin is simply a habit. Truthfully, I thought I could slide sin a little and get away with it.

Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” ESV

MERCY

He gave me a warning. I had no defense if he had given me a ticket. Technically, I broke the law. I wonder what other laws I think I can skirt around? My mother always says, “What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess.” Yikes, what a terrifying thought.

Hosea 8:7,”They sow the wind, and reap the whirlwind.” NKJV

what you do in moderation, your children will do in excess #becareful Click To Tweet

HAVE ENOUGH SENSE TO STAY OUT OF THE RAIN

Theologically, I know all of God’s laws are for my protection. But if I am honest, on some issues it seems a little silly to be held to such high standards, so I try to blur the lines and move the boundaries. I may get away with a warning but oftentimes I fall flat on my face. Once I move the boundary, I am operating outside of God’s umbrella of protection. I hurt myself ignoring the rules and unfortunately I hurt others too.

Proverbs 22:28, “Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have set.” NASB

JUDGEMENT

Someday I will stand before God’s throne of judgement. If He asks me if I broke the law I will say, “Yes.” If He asks me if I knew the law, I will again answer, “Yes.” However, I will not be judged guilty. No, I am NOT doing my best to get to heaven. Instead I am depending on the righteousness of the One who has never broken the law. Sending His only Son to fulfill the law was the ultimate demonstration of God’s grace.

2 Corinthians 5:21, “How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” MSG

Funny how blue lights in the rear view mirror made me look at myself and my own heart in the mirror. Thanks for loving me despite my faults and public failures. Thanks for sharing and inviting your friends to follow. We all need a little mercy and grace, right?

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How do I get off this merry-go-round?

The house on the corner of River and Market Street was located across the street from an elementary school. The playground in the front lacked a fence which I accepted as an open invitation to escape the heat and cigarette smoke of my grandparents’ house. As a young girl, the merry-go-round was my favorite. Bracing my small frame against the metal bar, I leaned my weight against the heavy contraption. My feet followed the circular path worn into the dirt. At first, it was nearly too heavy for me to move but as the speed increased centripetal force took over and it spun round and round. Making the leap, I hopped on and watched the world swirl past my vision causing me to suppress an immediate urge to retch. I have always loved the feel of wind in my hair but the thrill only lasted a few seconds. Prone to motion sickness, the spinning quickly made me want off, but it was moving too fast. If I jumped I would surely fall and likely scrape my knees. If I stayed on I would soon vomit. I thought this was going to be fun, but I wanted to stop. I didn’t know how.

Exodus 34:21, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” NIV

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Would you live here?

Would you live here?

Instead of a fixer-upper, it’s more like a faller-downer. I don’t want to live here, apparently neither does anyone else.

If this was my house I would never invite you over. In fact, when I know company is coming I usually light a  vanilla scented candle and whiz through the house to make sure everything is spiffed up and put away. The stack of mail which permanently resides on the counter top is stuffed into a drawer. I don’t recommend it though, somehow I misplaced our passports. They must be in my house, but for the life of me I can’t recall where.

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Because you never know about tomorrow

Because you never know

A thin layer of dust mixed with sweat covered my face, but in my mouth was the sweet the taste of victory. I imagine this is how it feels to cross the finish line of the Ironman triathalon. Maybe I should get the tattoo, but probably not. Had I thought about it I likely would not have gone. There were plenty of reasons it was a bad idea. But then again, you never know about tomorrow.

You never know about tomorrow.

 

A few reasons hiking was a bad idea

  1. Myasthenia gravis (MG) causes weakness in my muscles. Of course I do have a warning, my right eyelid droops. Then I have to stop, not slow down, not take it easy, STOP.
  2. We hiked in a “wilderness area” with no cell phone service.
  3. Since it was a spur of the moment trip, no one knew where we were. Initially we had other plans, but they fell through and well, we somehow ended up here.
  4. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

    Ominous black clouds heavy with rain moved toward us.

  5. My hiking companion was my mother. Although she is in excellent shape, she had a heart stent placed two years ago. I think it is safe for her to skip the stress test this year.

VOICE OF REASON

My daughter chastised me suggesting I should try to walk one mile in town before attempting a three mile hike. Yes, that would have been an excellent idea but then I would miss the breathtaking view.

After a quarter of a mile sliding downhill over rocks and roots and even a felled tree, my legs trembled like a newborn colt taking its first steps. As we rested on a rock that wasn’t quiet flat enough to be comfortable, it occurred to me there was a possibility I would be unable to walk back out. I mean, it happened in the grocery store on aisle two. My back-up plan was, wait, I didn’t have a back-up plan.

BETTER TO DIE LIVING THAN LIVE DYING  (you can read that post by clicking here)

I never took for granted the magnificent, expansive view available from atop Whitaker Point. What I took for granted was my ability to walk. The possibility I would never be physically able to hike again filled me with regret. I live fifty-one miles from this natural wonder and yet I had only been once. You know, I was working and had family responsibilities. And I was working and had meetings. And I was working and… So although I love to hike, I waited for another day. Then I got MG.

James 4:13, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” NIV

DON’T WAIT

Often we wait until tomorrow to enjoy life. Truly we never know what tomorrow brings. We wait to hike; we wait to reconcile; we wait to serve; we wait to share the hope of the gospel with the lost. Sometimes we wait too long. Thankfully, I got a second chance.

Don't just fill your life. Live life to the fullest.#live #life #fulfilled. Click To Tweet

SWEET VICTORY

Earlier this week I crossed the imaginary finish line with my hands raised to the sky in victory. Although my legs felt like Jell-O, I successfully hiked 1.5 miles to Hawksbill Crag and it was sweet. Maybe I will get a tattoo if I can talk my mom into getting one to match.

James 4:14, “You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring- what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.” HCSB

LIFE IS SHORT

This truth was underscored after I attended three funerals in eight days. So I urge you to take a few risks and have some fun while you can. Worship God and enjoy the wonders of this beautiful planet He created. Drive fifty-one miles if necessary. Cherish your loved ones. Forgive generously for tomorrow you may not have another chance. Do good and help your neighbor. Share the hope Jesus Christ offers. Do it before it’s too late.

James 4:17, “In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that for you, is evil.” MSG

Thanks for sharing my little victories. My feats are small but my God is big.

 

What’s right with you?

It has been a hard week by anyone’s standards. Twenty-eight hours and over two-hundred miles separated the two funerals I attended. Yes, it has definitely been a hard week.

Myasthenia gravis and stress do not play nice together either. Physically, I have been markedly stronger, but if I thought getting on prednisone was hard; getting off is harder.

Lamentations 3:19-21, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all-oh, how well I remember-the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.” MSG

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