The Story of a Miracle

Before 2004, I lived a life that had rarely seen discomfort or heartache. While our family had just come out of a difficult time in ministry, I had never personally gone through any tragedies. I rarely, if ever, got sick. My pregnancies were fairly smooth. I had never broken a bone, much less a significant injury. Goodness…I even had perfect vision and didn’t need glasses. Regarding my physical health, I’d say I had it made – that is, until a January day in 2004. I’ve written about it multiple times, so many of you know some of my story. A fairly routine gall bladder surgery turned into a 15 year nightmare. Because of an injury sustained in my surgery, there has been complication after complication in my health. Much of the time, doctors were not 100% certain it was related to my injury, so test after test was performed to find a named diagnosis. I always thought if the reason for my, much of the time, severe pain, fevers, yellowing of eyes and skin, fatigue, and other random symptoms would be easier to go through if it all just had a name. Maybe if I called it something, I could get through it. I never got a reason or a name until recently.

Two years ago, during separate time periods, my husband and I both sensed that God was going to heal me of whatever this was making me so sick. To say I had hope was an understatement. I expected it would be immediate.

It wasn’t.

While the previous years of being sick were like one big roller coaster ride, these last two years have felt like a roller coaster that never reached the fun point. You know, the point when you stop being so scared and suddenly you are propelled into intense laughter and giddiness? I could hardly wait for God to answer my prayer to be healed. It didn’t come, and it  didn’t come. The longer I waited, the more my faith waned. I still believed that He would heal me, but having faith even the size of a mustard seed is hard some days. While I walked through this one specific thing with my health, more life still happened around me. There were days that were filled with laughter and the BEST memories, and there were some very REAL LIFE days to throw into the mix. I walked through seasons of deep anxiety and depression that landed me in a counselor’s office multiple times. I watched the other half of my heart, my husband, walk through his own battle and my heart ached for him. I went through dark valleys with my children, saw my own friendships change and some became non-existent. I failed at new things I put my hand to, and sometimes I succeeded. I marked many days off the calendar because I was too sick to go outside my house. I put on a brave face for those of you we serve because I desperately wanted to walk through your trials with you, but many days were pain-filled and hard. There were hard blows that hit me in the face on top of my health that left me angry at God, confused by Him, and scared to trust Him. But He had spoken so clearly, and for that reason, I never fully quit fighting for a miracle from Him, which is why I started completely over with my medical care this past November. God led me to a new family doctor who practices with a group of doctors whose entire practice is based on ministry. They try to carry the love of Jesus into every patient’s room, and they regularly serve in the community and the world BECAUSE of Jesus. He is threaded all throughout. My family doctor led me to a new Gastroenterology group, where I happened to be familiar with a nurse practitioner there. She had treated me in the early days alongside my first gastroenterologist, and her husband is our banker at LifeSong. To say it simply, I trusted her, even though we do not really know each other deeply. In the course of my visit with her, she referred me to a doctor within the practice well-versed in my bile duct injury, and he treated has treated me for the last few months. While treating me with every bit of medical knowledge he has, he gave me so much more hope for my spiritual life. All along God has been working even when I couldn’t see every part, and He had led me to a doctor that believes God can do anything. I would only know the impact of this later, but as he prayed for his patients, God spoke clearly to him the same thing He had spoken to my husband and me…

“God will heal you.”

So, we believed this together while we proceeded ahead with procedures and tests, confirming my symptoms did, indeed, have to do with the injury I sustained in that 2004 surgery, while at the same time hearing my doctor utter prayers over us in his office, “God, heal her liver, restore her damaged bile duct…heal her.”

I have always wanted a story that was undeniably God as the author. If I had my way, I would’ve been healed the day He spoke the words to me. Sometimes we focus on the grander picture and miss the quiet, still voice words He speaks to us. You see during that 738BABDA-63F1-448C-8A4F-5F2C8CD02A1D.pngtime, God had also put another prayer on my heart – to return me to a simple, childlike faith. That had always defined me from the time I was saved at age 7. I followed after Christ because I simply believed that He loved me, sent His Son to die for me, and could do ANYTHING! A child has an awe and wonder about them that I had lost over time. It felt like part of me was missing without it, so while I didn’t immediately have an answer to my health, these past two years God has been so faithful to restore to me a childlike faith, reminding me He sees me, and hears me, but I have never truly been able to trust Him with my health until recently.

When God writes your story, sometimes you get to choose some of the characters, and sometimes you don’t. I brought my family into my story to walk it out with me – to pray for me, to take care of me, etc. There have been friends that have often stood in the gap for me. They show up even when it hasn’t been convenient for them. I’ve had opportunities to share my story with random people God has put in my path that I could encourage. I had people along the way encourage me that didn’t always fully know my story, but knew that God had also spoken to them I would be healed. Being a lover of writing a good story, I like being able to choose my own characters and creating a storyline for them, but that has not been the case completely for my own story because, remember, I wanted God to be the author. When my husband’s phone rang several weeks ago, I had no idea that another character in my story would appear, and impact my story forever. Usually when the chairmen of the trustees for church, Mark, calls, I know it’s to encourage my husband, to pray for him, or just discuss “business”. This day, it was to encourage me. As God woke him up during the night to pray, it was for me – over and hour of prayers on my behalf. Because I know very few people with the unrestrained prayer life he has, you better believe that we listened. 

“God clearly revealed to me that He is going to heal Amy. He has told me when, where, and who should be there.”

You need to know that when you ask God to write your story, the characters He writes in are often to give you a kick to make you move forward. When His call came, I still believed God would heal me, but I had been stagnant in my belief. I stopped pursuing Him intentionally to answer my prayer. I stopped pursuing Him just to know Him more deeply. I settled. I did not quit completely. I settled. It almost felt worse than quitting.

“He said to me in my prayer, ‘I will heal her through the faith of a child.'”

Remember He had been moving me back to a child-like faith?

“He told me to bring my two young sons to lay hands on her, and it would be through their simple faith she would be healed.”

“He said to come on Saturday and He’s told me who to bring to pray.”

On Saturday, May 11 at 5pm, people came into my home. Even the ones who came I knew, I did not know intimately. There were some I barely knew at all. I mostly knew them all because of what I had either seen, or heard, of their faith. These are not the characters of the story I would have ever hand-picked, but add them to the ones that God has allowed me to pick for my story, I knew that they all had the same thing in common – they were storming the gates for me to be healed.

“If you do not believe, go ahead and leave,” Mark said, to the people that had gathered in my home. Prayers are only answered when we have the undoubting faith to believe. No one left the room that day. Everyone believed.

As the people gathered around me to pray, his two sons knelt before me and placed their hands on me, and Mark prayed what God had told him to pray, and in that moment I surrendered the belief that I had held tightly onto…the belief that I had struggled to let go of to truly believe. That day, GOD HEALED ME! I am no longer sick. I am no longer in fear. Through the faith of a child, those boys, and through the faith of this child, ME, I was healed.

When I went to my last appointment with my doctor, I barely had to get the words out of my story since I’d last seen him. He knew. God had healed me just like He said He would. My doctor shared with me that when I had first started seeing him in February that he had attended a conference where a missionary spoke of her story of radical faith. He said the Holy Spirit moved throughout that time she spoke, and afterward they went into a time of worship through music. As they sang, he said God suddenly stopped him right in the middle of the song, and said, “Tell Jeff and Amy to live out a radical faith.” I believe that is what I’m doing today…Living out a simple, child-like faith radically. I know that to believe God still works through miracles isn’t the popular thing, or even the thing we see happening day in or day out…or are we? I believe He is performing miracles everyday, but we are not looking, or we’ve stop believing he could/would. There is no magic formula. There is just faith. It stretches in the whole of your story. It has no time table. It has no limit. It has no method. It doesn’t even have fireworks. I always thought that it would. It was in the quiet of a moment with a boy who is very American in his appearance, and another boy who is very Hispanic in his appearance, but both with a child-like faith, in a God who knows my heart was to return to a child-like faith, and even through the detail of the two cultures these boys represented for me – two cultures I’ve lived in and two cultures that God has changed my life in. It was in the faith to surrender my forgiveness to a God I had been angry with, and to a doctor that is human, and made an error affecting me with an injury. The final piece of a faith I just couldn’t stop overthinking and overcomplicating, but NOT the final act of faith I’d ever need.

Since then, I have had to get up everyday and lay down my surrender to believe. I have to believe that I am healed, that it was all real, and that He has a plan to use me to tell you that having faith is always worth it. God even gave me added affirmation that prayer changes everything when one of our staff shared with me that he had been discipling a man in jail, and he called him the same day I shared with the staff here my story of God healing me so that this man could share something with me. I listened over speaker phone this man in jail tell me that this man on staff here had shared he would be part of coming to my house to pray that day I was healed, so he and his cell mate wrote the date and time on their calendar to pray, too. As the time approached, the man’s cell mate reminded him that it was almost time, and as the clock changed to 5pm that day, two men in a jail cell prayed for my healing, and BELIEVED for my healing.

“No matter your past… if God is in your present, and you believe, He can use you to change lives. 

Our worship pastor shared a song with me a few months ago called, “There is a Move”. I believe it’s words can be hope for you today to know that it’s always worth it to have faith in a miracle-working God. If we really believe that is who He is, I believe the whole culture around us would change. Our churches would be filled because we come in the doors expectant for Him to move, and we don’t want to miss it. When the pastor invites us to respond, we wouldn’t leave in a mass exodus during the final song, because we would be too busy being aware and waiting on Him to move in us and around us. It would change every moment of everyday, if we just believe as the song says,

 

“Mountains are still being moved

Strongholds are still being loosed

God we believe, cos yes we can see that

Wonders are still what You do”

To you waiting for a miracle today, I simply say to you, DO NOT QUIT. Do not give up. Do not trade faith for a lie that it wouldn’t matter. Have faith. Doubt it if you must, but do not EVER give it up. DO NOT QUIT!

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The Call I Didn’t Want

I wished for way too long to be someone that I’m not. I’ve wanted to be that girl that has her act together all the time, didn’t feel things so deeply that most days I cry tears, didn’t question God and the path He’s allowed me to be on – a hard path. I’m not that girl, and I’m learning that it’s okay. He’s made me the way that I am, because in the middle of all of those tears I cry, it’s that deep feeling heart that wants to experience who He is just as deeply, that I can’t imagine any other way than the way He’s called me to walk.

3462486E-B69B-4840-9346-CEBA7F58AC8BSince October, I’ve been living in the Valley of Tears. No particular reason has prompted all of the tears. In fact, reasons change from day to day, but the fact is still there…I’ve not been OKAY. Not even remotely OKAY. While I’ve managed to get out of the bed everyday, felt motivated to look my best, put my best foot forward, I’ve barely made it from placing my feet on the floor every morning to placing them back between the covers at night, but I have made it back there everyday, but not without help getting there. I’ve tried it all – all of the essential oils, the CBD oil, currently two anti-anxiety meds, a weighted blanket, vitamins, you name it. I just want to feel like me again, but in the midst of wanting to feel like me, I’m striving for the me I’ve felt before, carefree and simple, but that’s honestly never been the me God called me to be. He called me to be a woman who has tasted the power of simple faith, and committed to Him to walk in that everyday, no matter the “how to get there” part. I’ve been trying to walk in a simpler version of a story that He never wrote for me to begin with. He’s been writing a story all along to remind me not to quit. It’s why I’ll do whatever it takes to grow stronger physically and mentally, why I’ll talk about anxiety like it’s real over some version of life other people live. It’s the version of life I’m living, and it all began 16 years ago this past month. 16 years ago this past month, God called me to walk a road that I’ve tried to get off of since day one.

If you have known me for any amount of time at all, you know about that miserable January day in 2003. My body writhed in pain that I could no longer tolerate, sending me to the hospital in an ambulance during an ice storm, to later endure a routine surgery that definitely was NOT routine for me. It’s true. Humans make errors, but who really wants the error to be on you? In a normal gall bladder surgery my common bile duct was severed, leaving me with barely a bile duct at all, and piling on a host of medical problems…and lots of bills…and a WHOLE LOT of questions regarding why I have excruciating pain for months, relief, more excruciating pain, and no answers as to why. I’ve been poked, prodded, x-rayed, had ultrasounds, you name it! No diagnosis. No treatment plan. No hope, if I’m being honest. Because I promised God I would do whatever it takes, and I’ve prayed over and over that I BELIEVE He started a good work in me, that He will finish it. So, in addition to all of man’s treatments (oils, medicines, etc), I’ve had an army around me. Prayers of the saints really is what you want on your side at the end of the day. Truth be known, I want a story that God could only write, not one that I stand up and claim that a medicine saved me. I believe a medicine can save us, don’t get me wrong, but I want His presence to go before me overshadowing any man made explanation. I want God.

I recently heard Lysa TerKeurst talk about a very scary medical crisis she found herself in the midst of, where she cried out for God to take the pain away, but He didn’t. My ears perked up a little because this has been my prayer for all of these years, for Him to remove my pain, and let me live pain free. He hasn’t done that. It’s made me angry. It’s made me sad. I’ve questioned Him. I’ve fought Him. I’ve also committed over and over to allow Him to do what He wants to do in me, and I will give Him the glory. The number of blogs I’ve written arriving at the place, one again, in surrender, are too numerous to count, but accurate in every way. Surrender takes time. Answers take time. As I listened to Lysa explain how her doctor ultimately discovered the source of her pain and developed a course of action, it was her words that followed that shook me, and continue to shake me. The doctor told her that had it not been for her pain, she would have died, because it was her pain that saved her. The pain led to the diagnosis. The diagnosis led to a plan to save her life. I am living that story today. My pain has saved me. It’s my pain that has led me back to a new path – a new set of doctors, new tests, new surrender.

As I walked into a, what I thought was, routine doctor’s appointment three weeks ago, I walked in broken. My anxiety at an all time high, panic attacks defining my days, and just exasperated, I was broken and tired of the pain, and tired of the fear of it all. I knew, however, God had brought me to this place. He had ordered my steps. I felt Him very much with me, despite my heart running on empty. I sat in the room as a precious nurse practitioner and kind doctor explained to me that I didn’t have to be in pain anymore…that they knew the last 16 years of pain were brought on solely because of the injury I sustained in that gall bladder surgery, that I did not have other conditions I was being tested for, but BEST yet, he could fix it. I would not have excruciating episodes anymore. I could plan to do things and actually go do them without fear of having these pain filled attacks. God spoke clearly to Jeff and me several years ago that God was going to heal me, and my mind had determined all of the ways He was going to do just that, and never did I land on “let’s have surgery to fix you”. Surgery is what got me where I am. No way, no how. I was not having surgery.

I’ve recently seen my life come full circle in one sweet verse in Exodus. Any journey we find ourselves on as a Daughter of the King is a journey we don’t want to take alone, right? Even on my worst days, it’s my Father I’m crying out to. He is THE place my hope lies. On this path I did not want to answer the call to walk, He didn’t leave me to walk it alone.

“If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33:15

Trust me when I say, I’ve tried walking it alone, but here I sit today knowing the only posture we can have in this life is the one we surrender and bow before Him. In pain or in the healing, I don’t want either if He’s not with me.

I head into surgery this week, a somewhat risky procedure, full of peace because He goes with me. He has never, ever wanted to withhold His healing from me. In fact, in the pain itself, I have been healed already. I have learned more about who I am in Him in the 16 years of pain that I believe I would have incident free. I never thought I would appreciate the pain, and while I am not begging for more, I know that my pain is also my healing. Being on the brink of healing feels strange in some ways, knowing that I am walking into a hospital with the promise of being healed, and I’m believing the promise. We are all on the brink of healing, if you think about it. We aren’t meant to belong just here in this physical world, in this hard situation we’re facing, in broken relationships, in financial decline. We’re on the brink of complete healing when we stay on the path, though it may be hard, toward our ultimate home. God is a good God that He even allows us a taste of healing here on this earth. Whatever we face in the days ahead, we can find purpose and healing in the pain. We don’t have to stay broken forever. We have a glorious reward just around the corner.

Thoughts

Ever have a thought that worms its way into your head, makes its way into your heart, and singlehandedly changes the course of your day? When a face is attached to a thought, we can allow ourselves to become completely unraveled over things like, “Why didn’t he/she speak to me,” “Why does it seem like they just don’t act the same way toward me,” “I’m sure they don’t talk to me anymore because they must know the secrets I keep about myself,” or ” They must not make eye contact with me because I have different beliefs than they do.”
We’re not living in a “For You” world anymore, to put it bluntly. We base opinions of others more on what others say about someone rather than knowing the truth of who a face really is for ourselves.

I recently discovered someone dear to me their whole life – someone I’ve loved deeply ever since I’ve known them – unfollowed me on a social media platform. Because I regularly share life with them, I scratched my head in confusion and began all of the negative self-talk, “What did I do,” and “Why don’t they like me?” I took the truth in my heart that absolutely nothing will ever change my love for them and I exchanged it for the lie that I caused the action they took to remove me from their “sight.”

When we make our worlds all about us, our love for others becomes selective.

When we allow thoughts that people don’t like us, will never like us because of how we’ve screwed up, share differing opinions than us, reacted differently toward us, chose to believe gossip about us rather than ask God to show them who we are, and on and on and on…we push ourselves to live in a space where we are no longer truly for people. When we allow thoughts of assumption to become our truth, we are no longer known by our love because our love has become conditional. Conditional love will never be a love that looks like Jesus. His love was never about Him. His love never changed its course because He assumed people didn’t like Him, disagreed with Him, or turned their back on Him.

His love knew its source, and that source was a never-ending supply, only focused on an ever-needing people.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” When we focus on making each other better rather than how they sometimes don’t bring out the better in us, it is there we are being a true reflection of love. The enemy will turn us against each other by using any trick – little or big. His motive is to keep us distracted, to turn us inward, and to keep us fighting so the world would never believe we actually even know the True Love. Who can you spur on today that you’ve allowed to control how you’ve loved them? People don’t dictate how we love unless we let them. Today let the Source of Love be your only guide.

Be Generous With Your Likes

Untitled Design 62I am very much a words person. I feel most myself when I am writing, but I repeatedly am stuck in a place of not feeling “good enough” because I mostly write for a social media audience and somewhat set myself up to “depend” on the likes to determine if I’ll continue to write or not. Just the other day I was so rooted in my own insecurity that I spent over an hour on Google researching how to know if your friends unfollow or hide you on social media. I was on the verge of making myself physically ill that people that say they love me don’t like what I post (No joke. I really did).
I know enough of how social media functions, especially on Facebook, to know that it is “Likes” that push you at the front of the line, force you to be noticed in the feed, or help you make the rounds on your friends’ lists. I had set up an expectation – an unfair one at that – that if my friends and family really loved me they would let me know my words matter by a “Like” button. It pushed the focus off of why I write – actually WHO I desire to consistently write about – to be squarely centered on the approval of my friends and family. In my real life world, I much prefer to text how I feel, tell someone in person how I feel, or show someone how I feel about them, so depending on a social media recognition really isn’t an accurate recognition at all. The truth is that many don’t see everything posted by anyone, so all my insecurity does is make me the center of the world, rather than use my words for their original intended purpose – to encourage. An audience of One is Who I obey, and an audience of readers at all is the one He also must bring.

I read the statement “Be generous with your likes” from a blogger this week and it really pulled me in. It shifted the lens of the words I write bringing some kind of desired return for me, and returned it to valuing people right where they are. Instead of asking, “Who out there is supporting me,” I ask, “Who out there can I support?” The blogger talked about she uses her LIKES on social media to show her support because she noticed the people who valued her, and wanted to show their support to her, be generous with their likes – so much so that she didn’t even know how much it had pushed her to go forward with her dreams.
Seems like such a simple thing that wouldn’t make a big difference, but doesn’t valuing and loving people right where they are when we want to be Jesus to them change everything? When we LIKE with a Jesus lens, their life is encouraged, and our life is, too, because we are awakened to the fact that we just have love every opportunity we get, and Jesus will bring the life change.

Not all life is an easy life to LIKE or LOVE. Truth is, I have to unfollow and hide toxic people from time to time, but our people, the ones we hold dear is a great place to start being generous with our LIKES. It means I will not withhold a LIKE from those I call “family”, or I have named “friend,” or those God has called me to serve alongside. If we don’t get those LIKES right, then there is no chance we’ll ever see much more than a mediocre display of love because we’ve limited it from exploding from the start. Our LIKES are definitely not limited to social media…in fact, that’s not where we need to be doing most of our living at all. Rather, we ask these things…Do the people we see everyday feel we are generous with our LIKES, or have we assumed they just know? Do our kids know we are over the moon for them because we’ve actually told them? Do our co-workers know we’ve got their back because we truly believe “two are better than one”? Does the insecure, the angry one, the one who feels they’ve been dealt the bad lot know we believe in them? Let’s turn the tide on the LIKES. Let’s throw them around like confetti! Let’s do all we can to see the people in our lives soar to their dreams because we’ve been generous in our support of who God is making them to be.

 

When I Don’t Take the Easy Way Out

Untitled Design 28Wouldn’t it be the best if our obedience to God guaranteed us a carefree life? Sometimes I determine my willingness to obey by whether the payoff will be in my favor in the end. Will it guarantee I get the answer I want, the job I’ve dreamed of, the relationship I’ve longed for? Will I come out of my obedience unscathed, my heart still intact? Will it make me comfortable?

I wish the answers to my questions of obedience always worked in my favor. We’ve painted big pictures to the world that obedience always makes sense. God would never have us make big decisions that others wouldn’t understand, would He? Surely He wouldn’t ask us to give up things that matter most to us for the sake of obedience. Would He ever require my obedience to set me apart from the crowd? Oh the QUESTIONS that arise when I determine how far I am willing to obey.

I’ve never really understood, or been a fan of, my obedience resulting in lost relationships, moves to other countries, being misunderstood, having assumptions made, and so on. Obedience shouldn’t cause heartache, should it? Maybe that’s a perception that we need to change. Galatians 1:10 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” If I’m being honest, I gauge my willingness to obey by whether or not people may or may not like me, if they might think I’m crazy, or disagree with my obedience. I’ve watched friendships dissipate, people leave the church where I invest much of my life, and heard that gossip has traveled over decisions to obey God in the hard, doesn’t make sense stuff. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Obeying God is beautiful, but not always beautiful in what the world defines as beauty. Obedience is less about the way we’re asked to obey, and so much more about the end result. It’s about the Kingdom – your obedience and my obedience. It’s not just about the Kingdom if you’ve given your life to serve full-time in ministry. It’s about that fact you have given your life to serve GOD fully!

How many times have you opted to just not obey because it means you might take a loss? I’m not sure I can count the times I opted out because I was so afraid of the ridicule I might receive because it wouldn’t fit into a nice, tidy box. I remember when my family made a BIG decision to obey God calling us to move overseas as missionaries. I was the very first to think my parents had lost their minds. Who takes their young children out of the comfort of the United States, away from friendships, and moves them to love people they don’t even KNOW? It took me years to understand that obedience is ALWAYS about the Kingdom for the Christ-follower.

Maybe obedience in the hard stuff is staring you right in the face today. You know people are gonna talk, that you might take a big hit for obeying in that thing that just doesn’t make sense. Let me say to you…DO IT! Obeying God is never a loss when the gain is always heaven and the treasures you lay there.
I may never understand the obedience God has required of me, especially when there are many days my heart hurts so bad when it’s the faces of people I see I’ve lost. That will never make sense to me. Is it worth it to obey God in the hard things? Absolutely. Is it worth it to not obey Him and hope He’ll ask someone else to do it instead? Nope. I’ve tried that, and probably will try that again, unfortunately. The abundant life doesn’t always come neatly packaged in doing just easy things. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s a wake up, take up the Cross, and surrender myself on the altar of MY WAY for HIS WAY. Every. Single. Time.

 

Close

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18
Ever feel like all of your conversations, all of the things you write, or all of the things you feel aren’t the most “popular” or uplifting things to talk about? If I were to sum up the last month, I feel like I’ve been beating the same old drum, feeling the same old things. I’ve always wanted to remind others that they should never be sorry for their story, but I often feel sorry for mine lately because it isn’t the fun stuff or the stuff that really gains you many friends. It’s the hard stuff that, whether we like it or not, we have to walk through.
My story, if it was a book, would be entitled, “The Sick Person”. I wish that wasn’t the title because it doesn’t just portray a physical state when I read it. It portrays a mental and emotional state that causes me shame, that makes me want to hide in my brokenness. It makes me wonder, “How many different ways can you speak about this…can you write about this?” I’ve always tried to look for the meaning in the events that shape my story, but most stories take on different chapters with a different theme. My story just seems to keep repeating the same chapter.
So many stories are worse than mine, but if we all think like that, we don’t always necessarily pay the necessary attention to what God is trying to speak throughout OUR story because we are rooted in comparison.
Health is a tricky thing. Many of us walk around in great health, and no worries. Many of us walk around in not so great health, and everyday is a worry in one way or another. Many walk around in the worst of health and take it like a champ, living each day to the fullest, but many uncertain how to live when you wake up each day wondering if this is the day it claims your life. Morbid, maybe, but also an honest nutshell summary of life.
I live most of my life looking through the lens of ministry. I firmly believe that if you are a Christ-follower, you all have a ministry, but my life just happens to be the calling that is also the “job” I go to everyday, or the events that fill my calendar. My ministry eyes have seen much sickness, and my hands have held the hands of many a sick person. It’s so much easier, if you will, to hold the hand of the sick than to actually BE the sick. For the last 15 years I have been the sick, but not until this last month have I actually realized, or called myself, the sick. It’s a label. I don’t like them. There’s always been something comforting to me about having an actual diagnosis for what ails me with my health, but there is also something about having a diagnosis that I don’t want, and it’s having a name that I would force myself to live in – to put myself inside a box called, “Just Barely Living”. Having a diagnosis might mean I use it as a reason to stop living, and for someone who feels EVERYTHING deeply, that’s not always what I need. We need reasons to keep on living, to not want to give up.
I’ve wanted to give up most everyday lately. I’ve been so sick for the past month, I’ve made it to work maybe a total of five days. I’ve run a fever for a solid month. I’ve lived everyday, but five, in pain. I’ve, by the grace of God, made it to church every Sunday, but 2, over the last two months, experiencing the only break in pain I’ve had, only to return home that afternoon to the pain returning. It’s probably all mumbo jumbo to you because you can’t understand something that has no name, that you don’t feel, or you’re one of the ones who is much sicker and you wonder why write about this at all. I’ve got to own this story God has been writing over me. I don’t believe He makes me sick, but I believe, as my husband always says, “This is all going somewhere.” If I wear any banner more than another, it’s that one. I have to believe it’s for a reason. The reason I struggle to understand is how do you live a life of ministry when you hurt everyday, when you are so tired you can barely shower, or when no one really understands your health because YOU don’t understand your health. I really don’t know. I want to know, but if I’m being honest, this is lonely and confusing, angers me often, and has flowed over to other parts of ministry that I don’t know how to process. Investments in lives have changed a lot for me. I feel disconnected from people, more of observing others doing ministry than actually doing it myself, and honestly super confused what’s even the point of putting a whole heart into something that everyday I see more and more care less about. I hate that part about honesty, but just understand with me for a moment that life seems to be so inundated with excuses over surrender, and I even find myself questioning my own desire to surrender and just keep going, but then I remember, deep down, with everything, I know this is all going somewhere. So, it makes me share hoping that it connects with someone, encourages you to keep going. Realizing recently that I am actually in this community I never wanted to be in called, “The Sick Person” has made me see things a little differently, I guess. Being sick makes me want to hide, but rarely do I hide from the pressures of responsibility. Maybe for you, that is your job. Me, too. I rarely hide from that willingly because income is drawn from a job. Expectations work will be completed exists. When I say I missed all but five days of work, that is solely because I couldn’t physically pull it together to get there. You want to know where I hide the most? From God. It takes every bit of my willpower to want to be in the Word, to pray, and I kick and scream my way to church each Sunday because He represents everything I don’t understand. Why did He speak clearly He is going to heal me, but He hasn’t. (Side note…please don’t write me, or tell me, “He’s going to heal you here on earth or in heaven” because duh, we will ALL be healed in heaven. This is not helpful. He spoke a specific word that He IS going to heal me. Pray that!) Why would I want to put myself in a place that He will speak to me things I’m often not ready to hear? Why would I want to be in a room full of healthy people when all I feel is sick physically and mentally? Being an introvert, I want ANY reason to not be in a room full of people, sick or not, but you try sitting alone in a room with your thoughts, and no one to talk you off a ledge but your DOG! It is NOT the most uplifting place to be. I look around every Sunday and my flesh takes over in confusion, anger, disappointment, hurt, defeat, and on and on. Why? When you see things through a ministry lens, you wonder why so many people have stopped coming, opting often for online church, or just no church at all. Do NOT hear me judge when I question watching online. Trust me. When I am home sick, it is the BEST to know I can worship from home, but trust me…the enemy will use ANY reason to keep you from community. He will give us excuses we would never use to not show up for work, just to keep us from being with people that will speak life to us, or keep us from sitting next to someone that needs to hear our story, or allowing a sermon to hit us between the eyes. Let me chase the rabbit one last lap with this…Don’t fall for lies that you can be just fine without attending church. It is a lie. Read Hebrews 10:24 & 25…’And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.’ What a gift to know we can encourage one another while we worship together.
In all of my attempts to talk myself out of going, I have NEVER walked out disappointed that I went. Why? I absolutely cannot depend on me. I NEED other people to be the lifters of my arms.
Untitled Design 25Maybe you are crushed right now for different reasons than the ones I am feeling. I love the scripture at the beginning of this blog because it reminds me that God doesn’t always immediately heal the brokenhearted. It says He is close. He is with us for every moment of sadness, frustration, defeat, anger…ALL OF IT! The truth is, we are all the sick person. We all have a need for Him that absolutely nothing else will satisfy. What I know is that our circumstances can drive us away if we allow them to do so, or we can do whatever it takes to draw closer to Him. There is no better closeness than the one where I’m moving as close to Him as He already is to me.
My knuckles are usually in a white clenched, even bloody state from just trying to hold on to my misery. You, too? Maybe it’s not an instant heal for all of us, but it is a peace to know that His closeness never changes no matter how sick or defeated we feel. You’re not alone today, you who feel crushed. Today I hope I can be the reminder you need. Tomorrow, I am sure that you will need to be the reminder for me. That’s just what community does. Find yours.

A Bearded Lady on a Dead End Road

untitled-design-7.pngIf you are one of the few remaining people who have yet to see “The Greatest Showman,” this post is not meant to spoil anything for you. I’m continually amazed that God will use just about anything to get our attention, and if my lack of motivation to go out last week for dinner and a movie with my family was any indication, God typically pushes me to come face to face with my junk and just deal with it…even in the dark of a movie theater.

For me, 2018 hasn’t been that fresh start, attack your goals kind of new beginning. What could go wrong, has. Any negative self-talk that could be said, I’ve said it and BELIEVED it about myself. I’m not sure why we allow the same things to have the same negative effect on us. Even when I’ve believed I’ve long ago dealt with hurts, failures and bad habits, they have a way of popping back up. I give the enemy more credit than he deserves, but life for me, if I’m being honest, is a good mixture of taking my eyes off of God, and opening that door wide open for the enemy to push those same, miserable little buttons. I allowed myself to fall into believing I’m alone. While everyone seemed to have a “bestie,” “BFF,” or “tribe” to HOORAY through the holidays with, I felt utterly alone. When you are an introvert like me, you tend to love being alone, savor the quiet, but sometimes I allow myself to be consumed with wondering if I’m ever thought of. In general I find the terms “bestie” and “BFF” to be juvenile out of the mouths of adult women, as if we are back in elementary school staking our claim that our friend is the very best of the best, and oh yeah…they’re MY best of the best and no one else’s. I do, however, sense the value of having your “Go-To” friend, one that is there for you through thick and thin. Heading into 2018, I just believed I’m not the go-to for anyone. Without a doubt, you challenge me to name who will be there for me in a skinny minute, I have a list of five or so that I wouldn’t hesitate to call within miles of me. Tell me they will hop on an airplane, and I’ll give you three more that would come no questions asked! Lies we tell ourselves take on a life of their own within seconds of believing anything about ourselves that is contrary to what God speaks over us. I pretty much camped out on the lie that I am not wanted, thought of, or valued, and you name one person that starts out on the right foot believing the worst about anything! Doesn’t happen!

I headed to a movie theater last week believing the worst about me, and events of the week fueled the belief that I screw up everything I touch and I’m misunderstood in everything I say. I headed to a movie theater last week wishing I could just tape shut my mouth from any chance to miscommunicate. I wanted to hide away and never come out because I believed my attempts to be a leader always end in disaster, that any approach to be a peaceful co-worker were producing opposite results and taken personally instead of professionally, and my management of my home was all things chaotic instead of me producing calm within our walls. All of the things I would tell you I’d believed God believed about me had turned to just wishing I could disappear, and I believed if I did, no one would even care. Thankfully, I headed to a movie theater and remembered that even words sung by a bearded lady can remind me of the truth of who I am.

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are

Words spoken by others hurt, but none wound more than what we more often speak over ourselves. While actual circumstances can cause us to feel like a nobody, it’s been allowing what I “think” others believe about me to become a loud truth in my ears.

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

Remembering who we are in Christ and who He is shaping us to be can drown out the pain others and even ourselves have inflicted. “Worthless” is the label I gave myself, and often give myself. I grovel to become who God wants me to be because He continually has to redirect me to where I find my worth. Battered and scarred from doing things my way, remembering that anytime I live in my flesh, I am not headed for life at all. Apologizing for the road that gets me there is often where I trip up because it is messy and hard, and I am ashamed of allowing anyone to see me fail along the way. You, too? Picture perfect simply doesn’t exist, contrary to what a social media world is producing. The beauty is actually found in the messy journey.

And I know that I deserve your love
There’s nothing I’m not worthy of
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
This is brave, this is bruised
This is who I’m meant to be, this is me

When I…when you…become aware of a love from God that demands all of our focus, we begin to trade lies for truth. When I still get up and feel worthless, what can I lay down that day that feeds into that, only to pick up what is feeding me truth. It takes me awhile to get it. The bearded woman hid behind a curtain everyday before she believed she had found worth. I, like her, can continue down a dead end road believing I screw up all I touch and say, or I can wake up and focus on what God says about me. A road I walk with Him is a road to life. A road with Him is exactly who I am meant to be!

“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

*Full lyrics found here