Friday, October 24, 2014

Vestibular update and my latest diagnosis

I haven't written a post in a while, mostly because I haven't felt led by the Lord to share anything. Some things have changed the past month and I wanted to at least share my latest diagnosis for those who may be following my vestibular disorder journey.
My vestibular rehabilitation ended on September 11th after 6 months of therapy. My therapist appealed to my insurance company to pay for more visits. They kept giving us the run around for almost a month.  One representative would tell us I'm not allowed anymore visits and another representative would say the visits were unlimited.  I had to make a choice.  I had reached a point of complete and total weariness in even wanting to do the exercises anymore.  I had stopped doing them for the month that my insurance company was making their decision and since I hadn't gotten any worse and the therapy wasn't helping me get any better, my husband and I decided that I would not return.  In the meantime, my grandmother told us that she was ready to move in with us (we had been praying for months for her to make this decision). I don't believe it was a coincidence that my therapy ended after six months and grandmother suddenly decided to move in!  She could have decided to move in sooner, while I was still in therapy, but she didn't. My treadmill was in the space where she would now be living so we had to sell it. I couldn't use it anymore for therapy so it was clear with this new direction that the Lord was leading us in, that deciding not to go back was the right decision.  The door is always open if I need it!  However, she would become my therapy by keeping me all kinds of busy! ;)

I was a bit concerned because of my illness, hoping it would not interfere with caring for her. I knew the Lord was at work and that He would equip me with everything I needed to make sure my grandma was taken care of, despite my own condition.  About two weeks before she moved in I reached that place of desperation where I cried out to the Lord with the admission that I simply could not go on like this anymore in my own strength. If He wanted me to continue this way, then He would have to provide everything I needed to go on. Of course, being our great and awesome God, He did just that and more.  I know that He does His greatest work in our place of surrender and although I've needed Him to get me through each and every day since this all started in January, this sense of need was different.  It was rock bottom, mostly emotionally, and when you're at the bottom there is no where to go but up!  More on that to follow...
As for my new diagnosis, I had made an appointment to see a neuro-ophthalmologist and waited 6 weeks to see him.  I just had that visit about 2 weeks ago.  Ever since this illness started, I have suffered with this strange illusion of the objects in my environment moving slightly back and forth just about 24/7.  When I'm moving or watching movement, I don't notice it, it's only when I'm completely still.  I knew this wasn't typical of labyrinthitis or MAV and I was curious to see if it was something wrong with my brain or eyes.  The doctor confirmed that I have a rare condition called "ocular flutter".  He could see with one of his tools that my eyes make fast back and forth jerking movements when trying to focus on objects.  It's not detectable with the naked eye, but it's happening and is the reason why I've had this illusion of movement. He said it's normally caused by neurological disease but since my MRI was normal, he ruled that out. He basically called me a case study! He said he would present my case to other specialists he confers with to see if they have any theories as to why this is happening.  Since there is no "cure", this is just another road that leads back to the Lord healing me by His own divine hand.

As I mentioned earlier, when I reached my place of surrender with the Lord, He gave me all I needed to go on in His power. I can't fully explain how that moment changed everything, but ever since that day it has been like living a fully healed life although I am not yet healed. I know that sounds strange and may not even make sense, but it's the only way I know how to explain it. I didn't think I'd ever not despair being in this condition and yet He's given me joy, perseverance, hope, encouragement, peace, strength and more. I didn't know how I'd care for my grandma and yet her being here has been therapeutic for me. She keeps me going and not focused on the illness.  The less I focus on it, the less I even notice it. Don't get me wrong, it's still difficult and I have my moments of fear, but I truly know now what it's like to live in the Lord's power and not my own strength. 
I believe I will be healed; He promised I would be.  Now I know for sure He won't be using doctors or medicine.  How awesome to anticipate the God of the universe healing a physical ailment with His own divine power.  What a great day that will be when He gets all the glory.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Heal your Headache - Migraine Diet Update

I wanted to share an update to my post entitled "Migraine Associated Vertigo" to give you an update on my experience with the migraine diet from the book, Heal your Headache by Dr. Buchholz.  (He seems to believe that even dizziness/vertigo and the host of other symptoms I experience are migraine related and that by following the diet laid out in his book, they symptoms should decrease or cease all together.  I wish!)

I followed this diet for 6 weeks (I remember reading in the book somewhere, but now I can't find it, to give it 6-8 weeks and then up to 4 months symptom free before introducing "trigger" foods back into the diet). Some may argue I should have tried it longer, but I will tell you why I did not. I was doing pretty well before starting the diet. My symptoms were troublesome and chronic (as in, 24/7), but the vestibular therapy gave me a lot of relief. After starting the diet, I actually got worse. As someone who got actual headaches only once and a while (a few a month, if that), I started getting them at least 3x per week. They were massive headaches too. Also, out of nowhere, I experienced the worst dizziness I had ever experienced since this whole illness began in January (up until starting the diet, my dizziness had been predictable, but this was a major turn for the worse.  I blogged about that experience here). This happened 3 times and actually set me back in vestibular therapy. I had to go back to my most basic exercises, whereas before the diet I had gotten pretty advanced. My life was pretty manageable, feeling about 80-90% better most days before the diet, but after the diet and this major episode of horrendous vertigo, I was back to being practically bed ridden. I couldn't drive for weeks, whereas before I could drive just fine (as previously noted, my dizziness almost always fells better while I in motion and never bothered me while driving up to this point). I actually thought that perhaps the diet WAS working and this was my brain's way of healing and adjusting, so I decided to continue on. However, my health overall just felt like it was starting to decline.

Since there seems to be some sort of trigger food in everything, I started relying too heavily on carbs & sugar. I know this is my own fault, but with a diet so limited, day old bread was pretty easy to reach for when I didn't know what else to eat. I couldn't even follow the sample diet in the book. Dr. Buchholz suggests roast beef sandwiches (what kind of roast beef, surely not processed deli meat??), tuna salad (what about the mayo that has vinegar and lemon juice in it?), grilled cheese sandwiches (I can't find preservative free cheese around here). As for his sample breakfasts, though it sounds good, it's just not healthy to live on waffles with maple syrup, blueberry muffins and bagels with cream cheese every day (not that I could find a preservative free cream cheese anyway). Dinner was the easiest because of Heidi Gunderson's Migraine-Free Cooking cookbook, but I found breakfast and lunch to be limited. I can't remember the last time I ate a decent salad. Although Dr. Buchholz says white wine vinegar is "allowable" in small amounts, I can't use it because of the sulfites. The problem is that now I can't use avocados, lemon juice or yogurt either to make my own salad dressing with those. Eating out was not even an option. Don't get me wrong, if this diet helped me, I would gladly never eat out another day in my life, but it did not.

I think the stress of following the diet and worrying about what food might have a trigger in it caused me to feel much worse too. I'm not saying others with a vestibular disorder shouldn't try, I'm just sharing you my experience. I would personally try anything (that's natural like a diet) and now I can say I did. Do I think it would have "worked" if I tried the diet longer? No, not at all. I have actually been feeling much better now that I stopped following it.  I don't mean that my dizziness is much better, but I feel better overall with more strength, energy and peace of mind and that, in itself, makes the symptoms more bearable and less debilitating. 
I do know that before this diet, I had my eyes on the Lord more often, looking to Him to get me through each day in trust that He would.  After starting the diet, I began looking to myself and this diet for help.  It became an obsession of sorts, especially when trying to avoid all "trigger foods". I am genuinely happy for those this diet worked for and if it has helped you and your vestibular disorder, praise God!!  I wish it had worked for me too, but the Lord has other plans for me.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Keep looking up! (medical UPdate on my vestibular disorder)

I saw my ENT doctor yesterday for a follow-up visit. I told her all about my recent developments with my illness, how I seem to have had some sort of set back.  I told her all about my theory on me possibly having migraine associated vertigo (which she shot down), and how I started the MAV diet (she had no comment as to whether or not I should continue).  She basically told me that what I'm experiencing is a "normal" part of this illness. I know it's true to have ups and downs, but to have my symptoms dramatically change after being the same for 6 months puzzled me. It's still hard to accept that it's normal, but what else can I do when no one knows for sure? She doesn't think I have migraine associated vertigo because I don't have the "classic" symptoms, which to her knowledge include the headache with the dizziness/vertigo.  However, this goes against everything I've read about the illness. From what I understand, a lot of sufferers have the vestibular symptoms of the migraine with no pain (I do have a history of true headache type migraines).  After a lengthy talk, she concluded with: "I'll be honest with you, I could be wrong". Not very reassuring!
She went on to tell me not to fear the positional vertigo, that is fatigues quickly if I just let it pass instead of changing position to make it stop. Thankfully, this type of dizziness does not happen to me often, but it was a nice reminder.  Although then she added: "If it doesn't stop, feel free to curse me out".  Again, not very reassuring! 
While on the topic of vertigo, I told her that I had not laid on my right side for years for fear of triggering an attack, as any previous bouts of positional vertigo I had would be triggered by laying on my right side.  She told me not to avoid this position, but rather get back into it so my brain can get used it.  She then told me about one of her patients who told her she would get dizzy when looking up so she hadn't looked up for 10 years!  I had to chuckle because I could certainly relate to the avoidance behavior.  She said she told this woman, don't do that, keep looking up!  (In other words, don't avoid the position that makes you uncomfortable.)
As I lay in bed this morning, in between that place of still being asleep and just waking up, the words "keep looking up" came back to me and I immediately thought about looking up towards God.  I was reminded of this scripture: "Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on the earth" (Colossians 3:1-2)
I know He wants me to look to Him, not to my illness but it's all I can focus on since my latest attack and I know it's not where my mind should be. I look up, I look down, I look back up, I look back down and sometimes I'm looking down for too long.  A lot of times I'm still looking down even when I'm looking up.  I'm seeking the Lord and professing my trust, as I'm seeking ways to lessen my symptoms or get healed through diets, supplements, doctors, holistic practitioners.  Why can't I truly rest in His promise to heal me and just wait!?

I left the doctor's office without any more knowledge regarding my illness than I had before. As a matter of fact, I may be more confused. She continues to believe I have uncompensated labyrinthitis and that it will get better one day.
Dear Lord, I know You know that this illness is not easy for me, but I also know You want me to trust You completely.  I have dealt with fear, anxiety and control my whole life and it's clear you are working through these things in my life with this illness.  I thank You that in your sovereignty You know exactly what is going on and have it all under control.  Thank you for the spiritual work you are doing in my life and that I can rest knowing You have my best interests in mind through it all.  Please help me to stop seeking other forms of reassurance and to only look up and to keep looking up!  In Jesus' name I pray, Amen!

Thursday, August 7, 2014


"Always be joyful, never stop praying, be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

I've been doing a study on the book of Colossians and Paul talks a lot about being thankful. A cross reference study question led me to the Thessalonians scripture above one day and it really made me stop and think.  It's God's will for me to be thankful in all circumstances (as well as joyful!).  I haven't exactly been obedient in this area. While I don't think He expects me to sit around and thank Him for allowing me to be dizzy all day and night, I do think He wants me to have an attitude of thankfulness because of all that I DO have to be thankful for thanks to my new life in Him. (On some level, I am thankful for this illness because it's what God used to bring me closer to Him than I have ever been before.)
First and foremost, I am thankful for my salvation and my reconciliation to God, my Father, through the blood of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, without whom I could not have possibly made it through a single day of this illness.  I am also forever thankful to God for my husband, who the Lord has given to me as my love, encourager, strength and so much more.
Today, practically speaking despite my illness, I am thankful for:
  • Being able to get out of bed.
  • The time I was able to spend in Bible study and prayer without any major episodes of dizziness trying to stop me!
  • The fact that I was able to feed and care for my pets :)
  • A successful vestibular rehabilitation appointment, despite the fact that it was very difficult mentally and emotionally to realize how far I have backslidden in my therapy due to this recent bout of vertigo.  I made it through each and every exercise with the Lord's strength when every part of me wanted to give up and felt fearful that it might trigger dizziness.
  • Being able to do two loads of laundry and run the dishwasher.
  • My recliner, air conditioning and nice, long nap in the afternoon!
  • The fact that I was able to prepare dinner and enjoy it at my dining room table with my husband
  • A nice, warm shower that I was able to take. Speaking of the shower, I'm also thankful for not getting hurt more seriously when I fell (ironically, not because of my dizziness)
All in all I'd say it was a good day despite feeling worse lately. I need to focus on the good.  I want this to be a habit, a life change, but it's so hard.  It's something only the Lord can do in me as I make the daily choice to focus on all I have to be thankful for.
Do you struggle with being joyful and thankful, especially in the really hard times?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A bump along the dizzy road (Part 2)

I wanted to keep a written record of the recent events regarding my dizziness (see: "A bump along the dizzy road" (Part 1)) because every month, around my menstrual cycle, I feel horrible and think I'm never going to get better.  There were some things I left out my "bump in the road (Part 1)" post that I wanted to share, mostly for my own benefit, but perhaps others could give me some insight or commiseration too.
A few days before I had my recent attack of vertigo, I felt like I was coming down with a cold.  I was sneezing like crazy, felt run down and had a sore throat.  Ironically, my dizziness was feeling really well considering my menstrual cycle was due and the possible impending cold (colds and sickness can set a vestibular illness back).  Ever since I started the Heal your Headache diet for suspected Migraine Associated Vertigo, I've noticed small improvements in my condition, so I was very encouraged by that.  On Monday, I made a batch of elderberry syrup with honey to combat my oncoming cold.  I also started taking a spoonful of honey and cinnamon for my sore throat.  On Tuesday night, I had a massive headache and finally gave in to taking two Ibuprofen.  I also had a gigantic bowl of vanilla ice cream (Turkey Hill natural - no preservatives) with home made whipped cream (from the Migraine-Free Cookbook) and some caramel topping (also all natural).  I know that bowls of ice cream tend to make me wake up with a sugar hang over, but of course I had to have a bowl.

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling really off.  My head felt strange; however, my sore throat was gone and I didn't feel like I was coming down with a cold anymore.  After I bent down to feed my cat and stood back up, a few seconds later is when the vertigo started.  That story can be found in the post linked above. My menstrual cycle started later that day.
Every month during my cycle, my dizziness increases.  It also increases during pressure changes.  Sadly enough, the day I got my cycle, we were due for rain and I clearly was also combatting some type of illness.  Could all three of these things have been what sent my condition over the edge?  All I know is that every month, I feel worse and think I will never get better.  This month though, I feel worse then ever!  It's like I took one giant step backwards. Every day I have felt like a walking zombie, with tons of pressure in my head, terrible eye aches and the feeling like I might tip over or have vertigo again.  Thankfully I haven't had the vertigo again but I feel really, really lousy, like the worst ever since this whole thing started in January.  I've gone back to my basic vestibular exercises and even those are causing my dizziness to increase badly.  For that reason, I've been spending a lot of time lying down.  I know that's bad for this condition, but it's too frightening and uncomfortable to get up and move around too much.
I don't know what to do.  Since doctors have no clue how to help, that leaves out their advice. Since everyone's symptoms on any forum or support group I visit and read about vary as much as each snowflake, I simply cannot wrap my mind around this illness and that really upsets me.  It bugs me that no one can tell me what is happening and why and that there is no cure.  Perhaps this is in fact the perfect illness for me to have so the Lord can continue to work in my life.  After all, without any sort of control over the situation or method of healing, I have no where else to turn but to Him.  I truly know what it means now to trust in Him with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  As if I could have any understanding with this illness!?  Now if only I can get the head knowledge into my heart and quit trying so hard to make this go away!!!
As I sat in prayer this morning, crying once again to the Lord, the Holy Spirit spoke this word to me: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13). I was so thankful the Lord gave me that truth and it filled me with peace. Several hours later, I went back through my journal that I've been keeping (I call it my book of encouragement) filled with scriptures and teachings on healing and waiting on the Lord, and I came across a list I made of truths versus lies a few months ago. One of the lies I was believing at the time was about me getting worse.  I wrote down the lie: what if I get worse?  The truth I used to combat that lie was written in the adjacent column and it said: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".   Thank you, Lord.  I've never needed your strength so bad in my life!

A bump along the dizzy road (Part 1)

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A bump along the dizzy road (Part 1)

More like one of those gigantic speed bumps you have to slow the car down to a stop to get over! Yesterday I woke up and just didn't feel right. I went about my usual business of getting my husband's lunch ready for work and taking care of the pets. When I bent down to feed the cats, I really felt off.  When I stood back up, everything started to spin. I haven't had spinning vertigo since my illness started back in January, so this was really disheartening.  It only lasted a few seconds, but was enough to scare me.  I ran to get my husband, as he hadn't left for work yet. I went straight to my bed to lay back and relax.  Once I laid down, the spinning started again so I sat back up and after a few seconds, it went away.  Although it did leave me with the serious desire to vomit. I ran to the bathroom and dry-heaved a bit (sorry, that's gross), but nothing came up.  
As I sat on the bathroom floor, all sorts of thoughts, which should have been taken captive, ran through my mind.  Am I getting worse, what if it doesn't stop, is this going to be my new "normal", what if??  My biggest question was "Why, God??" Why, after all this time and the promise to heal me, would I seemingly get worse?  I'm used to having good days and bad with this illness, but this was the worst bad day yet. I'm going to tell it like it is, I was pretty much hysterical. I was crying and begging Him to please make this stop.  My husband kneeled down beside me and we prayed right there on the bathroom floor.

The spinning did stop, but I spent the rest of the day in our recliner, as sitting straight up was the only position where the dizziness would stop. Looking up or bending down was the worst trigger. I called my vestibular therapist and she told me to rest, avoiding any head movements that might trigger the vertigo.  My wonderful husband took the day off from work, as I really didn't want to be alone!  Filled with fear (when it should have been faith), I sent out a bunch of prayer requests.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes me feel better than knowing people are praying for me.

I really felt discouraged and did a whole lot of crying. I had trusted God to never let the vertigo happen again and here I was experiencing it.  (In His defense, He never promised that.)  I went on and on to God about how I had walked through this illness by faith for 6 months, trusting Him, waiting on Him, worshipping Him, studying His word, getting out of bed when I just wanted to stay under the covers, going to the supermarket and other places instead of staying home for fear of how I might feel while I'm there, and now this? I admitted defeat and that I could no longer go on like this. Technically, I don't have a choice in whether or not I'm going to live like this, but I do have a choice about how I'm going to feel or think about it. I'm ashamed today to think about everything I just shared.  I'm ashamed and sad at how I could question God and His ways or to react in such fear and discouragement rather than in faith and trust.

My pastor told me something a while back that I thought about.  He said "when you're faced with what you don't know, rely on what you do know".  What do I know?  I know that God loves me (Jeremiah 31:3), He has good plans for my life (Jeremiah 29:11), I know that God works all things together for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), I know that He promised to heal me (2 Kings 20:5), that He is always with me (Deut 31:6), I know that I should not be afraid or let my heart be troubled, but trust in Him (John 14:1, 27; Joshua 1:9, Psalm 56:3), I haven't been given a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7), He is perfecting me through this (James 1:2-4), and I know that He is sovereign, in control (Psalm 103:19, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12).  This is the truth I know that I need to dwell on. I don't know that it will make the vertigo any less frightening in the moment, but choosing to run to God's truth over dwelling on the enemies lies will undoubtedly produce more peace and trust in my life rather than chaos and further anxiety.

I wish I could say the thought of it happening again is not crossing my mind every minute, but it is.  It's hard to imagine choosing not to think those thoughts, but I know I can. The power of what I think lies in my choice to either take my thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), or to let them roam free and allow the devil to have his field day. Lord, help me to dwell on Your truth!! 

I'm feeling better today than yesterday, but not 100% yet. I saw my vestibular therapist and she performed the Dix-Hallpike test to see if I would test positive for positional vertigo and nystagmus.  It didn't trigger any spinning or involuntary eye movements, so I guess that's good. She put me through a series of basic exercises and determined that my balance is still very good.  I am thankful for the previous 4 months of balance therapy that have strengthened my other balance organs!  I left feeling encouraged.

As for feeling defeated, as I sit here and type this, I'm reminded by the Lord that it's not possible. Because I'm in Christ, the battle has already been won and victory is already mine (1 John 5:4-5).

A bump along the dizzy road (Part 2)


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Faithful Workouts: Dance (Pazaz) and Power Stretch

I've been wanting to do a blog post about Faithful Workouts for a while now.  After doing their new "Pazaz" workout, I just had to share about it!  I first want to thank God that He has brought me to a place in my illness where I can do formal workouts now. My health is definitely something I have taken for granted and I'm just so thankful to Him that fitness is part of my doctor's prescription to help me get better. There was a time where I couldn't face a workout because of my dizziness, so to do a 30 minute cardio workout and be able to blog about it after is truly a blessing from God.  I just take one day He blesses me with at a time!

I came to know Faithful Workouts a few years ago while on a fitness forum.  I was looking for Christian workouts and these were recommended to me. I ordered a bunch of workouts and really liked them, but I wasn't in the right spiritual place to fully appreciate them at the time.  As I posted about before, I spent years in bondage regarding my body image.  I was obsessed with fitness and diets and used them as a means to try and achieve a certain look, a look which of course always eluded me. After all, our flesh nature is never satisfied, now is it?  In a blog post found here, I wrote about how God used my current illness to free me from the chains of idolatry regarding fitness and food, among other things. In years prior, the Faithful Workout DVD's I purchased were just one of the many tools I used to try and attain my aesthetic goals.  However, God worked on my heart to get rid of all of my other workouts (I must have had at least 100) and to only keep these.  

(As a side note, I got rid of all my workouts other than one stretching workout I really liked. I didn't feel right about keeping it because I was not completely obeying God.  I kind of felt like Abraham keeping Lot around. ;-) I didn't want to part with it though because I love stretching and didn't know what I would do without it.  As luck God would have it, when Pazaz was released, it included a stretch routine!  I couldn't get rid of that last workout fast enough :-) ).

Image from

Pazaz is a 37 minute dance workout set to upbeat, Christian music, based on David's dance for the Lord in 2 Samuel 6:14. It is so much fun!! I had to modify some of the moves because of my illness, but still worked up a good sweat. Each routine has moves that build upon each other, leading up to putting it all together before moving on to the next. The moves are pretty basic and easy to catch on to.  It might take a time or two, but once you get everything down, you're free to move and enjoy the music!  I couldn't decide which routine was my favorite.  Just when I thought I loved one the most, the next one would make me think the same thing.  There's a break in the middle with all standing ab work, which I loved as well. I'm really into standing ab work!  The final stretch is really encouraging as Michelle talks about having joy in the Lord and not our circumstances.  It was a message I really needed to hear.  One of the things I love most about these workouts is the encouraging messages and scripture that are included.  

As for the Power Stretch routine, I loved that too! It was very relaxing. It lives up to its name since some moves did require muscle "power" to hold the poses. I got my husband to do this one with me and he kept saying how great he felt afterwards. The music was soothing and the message in this one was just as encouraging as the message in Pazaz.  It's based on the story of David and Goliath.  This one is about 20 minutes long.

Here's a clip:

What makes Faithful Workouts different than anything else out there, besides the Christian message and music, is that fact that it includes information on faith and fuel and not just fitness. You can purchase workbooks on the website with weekly readings that include biblical information on faith, fitness and fuel. I purchased one of the plans a while back that included a menu plan and daily readings and found it so encouraging. It really helped me transform the way I viewed fitness and eating. Faithful Workouts is one of the tools the Lord used to show me that a healthy body is important to serve Him and I am so thankful for it.  Check out their website!  You can even purchase clothing, homeschooling tools and fitness equipment. 

I just wanted to mention that I'm not saying that non-Christian workouts are bad for Christians. This is my walk and what the Lord is showing me personally.  I am susceptible to buying into the lies other videos may tell when they talk about "getting a bikini body" or something similar.  As I walk with the Lord and desire to transform my mind, using these workouts help me to focus on the truth (Phil 4:8).  I honestly believe that what we hear and allow into our minds will affect what we think and how we live. We're either feeding the flesh or feeding the spirit and Faithful Workouts will feed your spirit! I want God involved in all I do and to glorify Him even in my fitness life. I thank God for Faithful Workouts and pray every day that He continues to bless this ministry.  

As for Pazaz, this is a must have!  You won't be disappointed.  I am already hoping for a sequel!! :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV)

It's been a while since I last posted and I wanted to share where I'm at right now with my illness.

I posted several times before about my vestibular disorder that I've been living with since January. My doctor has no idea what's causing it and lumped me into the "it must be uncompensated Labyrinthitis" group. She knows for sure it's not Meniere's Disease, but other than that, it's a mystery. I've been successfully doing vestibular rehabilitation therapy since March. It has helped reduce my symptoms dramatically, although I still have major set backs any time the pressure changes or I get my monthly cycle. 

I shared my story on a few different dizzy forms the past several months and got responses from some very nice women who suggested I might have Migraine Associated Vertigo. I had read about it in the past during my research, but never explored it in depth.  One of the women recommended a book called "Heal your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for taking control of your pain" by David Buchholz, MD.  I ordered the book from my library and went to pick it up before my vestibular therapy appointment yesterday morning. While at my appointment, I talked more about my symptoms with my therapist.  I didn't mention anything about the book. She said I reminded her a lot of another one of her patients who has Migraine Associated Vertigo. Apparently she had seen some top doctors at John Hopkins University who diagnosed it. She gave me a hand out to read and suggested I get a copy of Heal your Headache.  I couldn't believe it; I told her I just got the book from my library!  I often look for confirmations from the Lord that He's telling me something because I don't want to seek any kind of treatment outside of His will, believing wholeheartedly that He will make good on His promise to heal me because His word is true, always. I took this recommendation by my therapist as a confirmation since I had been praying for Him to use her and guide her in a mighty way regarding my treatment.  I had also been praying for His wisdom, knowledge and guidance.  

I read through the entire book yesterday. I just could not put it down. All my symptoms were described in the book as migraine related: head pain & pressure, sinus pressure, ear pain and fullness, dizziness! I always knew migraines could cause visual symptoms, not just intense headaches, but I had no idea they could cause vestibular (and a whole host of other!) problems too.  I used to get horrible migraines when I was younger, the kind that cause horrendous head pain, light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. I only had a handful and then they went away, though I struggled since then on and off with dizziness.  Could it be that what I'm experiencing is migraine related?

I'm going to follow the diet recommended in the book, eliminating all common migraine "triggers" to see if it helps with my symptoms.  If it does, praise God!  If it doesn't, praise God! I thank Him for this opportunity to give something a try, but if this is not something that will help me, then I trust Him to bring it to pass in His time and in His way.  

I highly recommend this book though.  It's an excellent read and a real eye opener. Any doctor that challenges the status quo is okay in my book.   

If you've read the book or tried the diet, I'd love for you to share your experiences! For more information on recipes related to this specific diet, the follow links are highly beneficial:

Migraine-Free Cooking (a blog with recipes based on the book)

Migraine-Free Cooking (recipe book based on Heal your Headache)

I ordered the Migraine-Free Cooking book today and look forward to receiving it!  I spent the day clearing my cupboards of any triggers.  My loss is the food pantry's gain!

UPDATE: I tried the Heal your Headache diet for 6 weeks and then I called it quits.  For the entire update and all of the details, please refer to this post: "Heal your Headache - Migraine Diet Update".  In a nutshell, it did not work for me.


Monday, June 9, 2014

Answered prayer: Be still!

I already shared numerous ways the Lord has brought me spiritual healing, as well as answered prayer, through my illness.  You can find that post here.  I felt led to share a very special way He answered prayer one night as I cried out to Him.  I had been struggling with the wait, the time between His promise to heal me and the healing to come.  I had been to doctors, went through tests and got a diagnosis.  However, there are other types of doctors I could see if I wanted to, and I struggled with whether or not I should keep pursing medical opinions, or just wait. 

One night when I was having a particularly bad day with my illness, I was crying out to God asking Him to show me if there was anything more I could do, any other doctors I could see, any other kind of treatment I should seek, anything the doctors were missing, for Him to please show me. I kept saying "what should I do???" over and over. Less than five minutes after that prayer, a friend of mine (who didn't know I was praying) text me and asked me what does "Be still and know that I am God" mean?  As I marveled at the timing of her question I began to search my concordance and commentaries on this beautiful message from the Lord. I knew that was His answer as to what I should "do" and it brought me peace that night. This is just one example of how He has answered prayer through my illness.  There are so many more examples like that where He directly answered prayer, brought me peace, enabled me to endure, that I could write a book!

The reason this particular event came to my mind this morning is because of a Bible study I started a few weeks ago on mentoring.  It's called "Influence: Living and Sharing a Life of Wisdom" by Jan Silvious and Pam Gillaspie. These are the same two authors who wrote the study I was going through when I first got sick about not worrying and trusting our Sovereign God.  When that study was coming to an end, I had asked Pam if they had any other studies in the works because I really enjoyed the one on worry. She told me that it was going to be a study on mentoring.  Well, at that particular time (several months back), I had no desire to do a study on mentoring.  I told myself "well, I won't be doing that one". Fast forward through months of God working on my heart and in my life and creating within me the desire to share Him with other women. I had completely forgotten about the study until I got an email for the enrollment. I signed up and am currently working on Week 2.  

Can you guess what my assignment is for today?? It's to study God's word to see what it says about waiting on Him.  Yes, a study on mentoring other people (that I didn't even think I would be doing) is asking me to dig deep into God's word to "learn to both wait on God and act with kingdom purposes". Interestingly enough, I am also doing a study on perseverance right now and just finished studying the life of Joseph, a young man who endured decades of rejection by his brothers, temptation and slavery before finally ruling over Egypt. That study asked me to exam my own life and how I handle the "wait" just as Joseph had to endure his own time of waiting. He did it all with continued faith and trust in God until one day He could say "what you meant for evil, God meant for good". (Gen 50:20)

Now tell me, is God good or what??  It's not a coincidence that I'm doing these studies right now. At this point in my life I'm struggling with being still and waiting. How could I know that a study on mentoring would ask me to examine what God's word says about waiting on Him?  He put the desire in me to do the study and knew just what I would need to focus on this very day to bring me His continued encouragement and hope.  Praise God, more answered prayer.

I'm off now to do my study on waiting...  :)

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Taking thoughts captive

"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ," (2 Cor 10:5)

The Lord spoke a very interesting analogy to my heart one day regarding the therapy I am going through to help my brain compensate for my inner ear weakness, and taking my thoughts captive. 

My therapy, Vestibular rehabilitation therapy (VRT), is "an exercise-based program designed to promote central nervous system compensation for inner ear deficits". My physical therapist developed an individualized treatment plan for me that includes specific head, body, and eye exercises that I perform both in office and at home on a daily basis. These exercises are designed to retrain my brain to recognize and process the signals from my inner ears (the vestibular system) and coordinate them with information from my vision and my muscles/joints. (See: What is Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy? for more information)  

It is crucial to my healing that I perform these same head positioning exercises over and over again, day after day, so that my brain can learn to ignore the mixed signals from my weak ear and compensate. The therapy process is an ongoing battle of taking 1 step forward and then 3 steps back. Just when I think my brain is getting it and I'm feeling better, boom! I have a set back. When I asked my physical therapist why this happens, she explained that it’s just a process that takes time; it’s something new that my brain needs to learn, but over time it will get easier and the bad days will be far less than the good.  

For years (okay, my whole life!) I allowed any and every thought to pop into my mind. I entertained them and fed them, allowing them to grow and take root deep within the pathways of my brain.  It was my norm.  One of the things the Lord called to mind while walking through my illness was that I must confess my sinful thinking and obey His word by beginning to take my thoughts captive. This idea was not foreign to me, I knew the scripture well.  I'll admit that I tried before, in my own strength (we all know how that ends up), to begin the process of taking my wrongful thoughts captive but it was just too hard and I gave up. It was much easier and less painful to just go back to the way I was and not make myself uncomfortable by taking real steps and doing the hard work to change. But this time, I knew it had to be different if I was going to find the kind of real and lasting spiritual healing I believe the Lord is working out in my life during this illness. The Lord showed me that because of the lies I believed, fear was controlling my life because of this illness. In reality, I had let fear of some sort control me my whole life all because of the way I allowed myself to think.  This change of thinking required major attentiveness for someone who was once so casual about their thoughts! The Lord also showed me that aside from taking my thoughts captive, I needed to replace them with truth. I have begun the process of identifying some lies and sinful thoughts I was believing and replacing them with the truth of God's word, and I continue to do so as the Lord reveals them.  However, it's a daily process battle, sometimes minute by minute, that takes alertness (to each thought), hard work and determination.  

So, how did the Lord show me that the two (my therapy and taking thoughts captive) relate in my life?  Physically, my brain was used to my ears doing their job and relied on the information supplied by them to keep me balanced and dizzy free. I didn't need to challenge my brain to take over for my weak ear because it didn't have to. Spiritually, my brain was used to the norm of entertaining any and every thought that popped into my mind, which left me functioning as a person who claimed to be a Christ follower, yet lived the not so abundant life He came to give, devoid of His power and bound up in the chains of fear and lies. Hard truth!  I didn't need to challenge my brain to take my thoughts captive because I let them roam free! Well, it's a new season of challenge for my brain, both physically and spiritually!

The connection is in the challenge. Just like I need to perform my vestibular therapy exercises day after day in order for my brain to keep receiving the wrong signals from my weak ear so that it will learn to function in a new way through compensation, I also need to take my thoughts captive on a daily basis, sometimes minute by minute, in order for my brain to keep the wrong thoughts out and to learn to function in the new way of believing the truth and not lies! As I mentioned above, my vestibular therapy is a process of 1 step forward and 3 steps back, much like taking my thoughts captive has been. It's easy to recognize some wrong thoughts and immediately take them captive, but some days I find myself long into dwelling on the wrong things and wonder how I let it happen. Just as physically my brain slips into it's old familiar pattern of trying to rely on my ears instead of it's new function in taking over for one of them, spiritually my brain slips back into my old familiar routine of letting my thoughts run wild rather than the more difficult work of taking them captive. 

In addition, what I found most interesting, is the literature that claims anxiety (caused mostly in my own life by irrational fear) interferes with the balance compensation process.  As a matter of fact, my doctor even told me the very same thing!  Perhaps the Lord has revealed to me the spiritual healing necessary to bring about the physical one.  

At the end of the day, it’s a process and both my therapy and taking my thoughts captive require trust. After all, Jesus is the one who allows my brain to compensate to bring about my physical healing, just as He gives me the power to take my thoughts captive and has given me His truth to dwell on for my spiritual healing. In both ways, I have to play my active role in the process as I trust in Him. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Spiritual healing through my vestibular disorder

" joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer..."
(Romans 12:12)

I don't normally like to get overly personal about my life on a blog, but I felt led to share how God has worked spiritual healing in my life through my physical illness. Going through my own life altering disease, which I wrote about briefly here, has truly given me a heart for those who suffer.  I long to share with you the spiritual work God has done in my life through this trial so that by it you may find encouragement.  He laid it on my heart to keep a journal of all the ways I was growing spiritually throughout this ordeal and now I want to use those experiences to bring Him glory. 

When I first experienced the symptoms of what later would be diagnosed as labyrinthitis on January 31, joy was not exactly my initial response. Without going into the medical technicalities, labyrinthitis is a disorder of the inner ear where a suspected virus attacks the balance organ in the ear, destroying cells and weakening its function. According to doctors, the damage is permanent. The ears are responsible (as well as the eyes and muscles/joints) for sending signals to the brain to help it know where we are in relation to gravity and whether or not we're moving. Since my brain was now getting mixed signals from my ears because one had lost part of its function, it left me with chronic dizziness.  I had suffered with bouts of positional vertigo for years prior to this as well, but this chronic dizziness was something new. It's not a spinning sensation and it's not feeling light headed, but rather everything around me always seems to be moving slightly even when I'm not, day and night. My doctor prescribed Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy which is designed to help your brain compensate for the inner ear damage.  I am currently in my 11th week.  

Whatever you suffer from today, my heart goes out to you and you are in my prayers.  I am here to share with you that God loves you, He is with you (Matthew 28:20) and He is at work in your life. No one wants to be sick, including me, but if you believe and fully trust in His sovereignty in all of life's circumstances and keep your eyes fixed on Him, He will provide you with the strength, peace, endurance, hope, faith and even joy to carry on. 

JEHOVAH RAPHA - The Lord, our Healer
"...I am the Lord, who heals you" (Exodus 15:26)

Early on in my illness, before I was ever even diagnosed, I cried out to the Lord one night in a mighty way with tears streaming down my face. I begged Him to heal me.  The following morning, during a Bible study I had been working on called No Worries: Learning to Trust our Sovereign God (how appropriate, right?), the assignment for the day was to read the story of King Hezekiah.  He was told to get his affairs in order because he was going to die from his illness, a boil which apparently was fatal. He cried out to the Lord in tears and the Lord heard him. The Lord sent his servant, Isaiah, back to the King with these words: "Thus says the Lord, "I have heard your prayers, I have seen your tears, behold, I will heal you"" (2 Kings 20:1-6). I sat in awe for quite some time after reading those words. Was it a coincidence?  There are no coincidences with God. I believe, wholeheartedly, that this was His answer to me. I prayed, I cried, I asked for healing.  He heard, He saw, He will heal.  Wow. It was one of those moments you never want to forget how it felt. It was as if I heard Him speaking those words directly to me. Never underestimate the power of prayer, or His willingness to speak to you. I had no idea just how powerfully He would answer that prayer. It wasn't in the way I expected, at least not yet, but it was in the way He knew I needed most. He loved me enough to use my pain and suffering to bring health and healing to my soul.  Determined to stay in the word of God, I fought my symptoms of dizziness day after day, staying faithful to Bible study and prayer. I did what I could and rested when I needed. Bible study, prayer and vestibular therapy were my prescription!  It was through my time with the Lord that the real healing began. 

Make no mistake, the Lord is our healer (Jeremiah 30:17, Psalm 103:3, Psalm 107:20, Matthew 4:23, 14:14). That is His name, Jehovah Rapha. Whether He decides to heal instantaneously and miraculously, or use doctors and medicine, He is the one who heals. You might ask, what about those He doesn't physically heal? We just need to trust in His love and plan for each of our lives, which sometimes includes a physical ailment that is not removed. The good news is that in Christ, this is the not the end for us! As His children we have the promise of an eternal home prepared in heaven for us by the Lord himself (John 14:1-3), a place where there will be no longer be any death, mourning, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4). Not only that, but we have His grace which is sufficient for us in the here and now, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). If He wills for us to live our lives with an illness, He never leaves us to live with it on our own. 

"But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12)

My first and most important lesson came by way of God assuring me that I was His child. This may seem like a funny lesson to learn, after all, shouldn't this be something I already knew as a Christ following Christian? About 3-4 years ago, a seed got planted in my mind that I might not truly be saved.  I'm convinced now that it was the enemy and not actually the truth, but I watered the seed by letting my thoughts run rampant until I believed it must be the truth. Not being sure of your salvation is a terrible place to be. Without the assurance of God's promises, which only belong to His children, I felt completely powerless. I always felt like an outsider looking in around other believers too, longing to have what they seemed to have, but always doubting. While spending time daily in communication with God and in His word, He had me listening to a Christian radio station in my area called The Bridge. I was also working through a Bible study that referenced the book of 1 John. I knew that book was written specifically to believers, so that you will know for sure that you are a child of God. I began to pray that the Lord would bring me a thorough study on 1 John so that I could know for sure of my salvation. That very morning when I prayed that prayer, I turned on the radio station to find one of the pastors going through a verse by verse study on that book.  I couldn't believe it!  I spent hours a day going through the archives listening to the study from beginning to end. I marveled as day after day the Lord spoke to my heart, changing me in so many ways through that study and ultimately giving me the assurance that I belong to Him. That was a turning point in my life. Knowing for sure and no longer doubting my salvation has drastically changed the way I view myself, my life, the world, my Lord, my prayers, my assurances of His promises, my desire to live for Him and more. The word and my prayer life have come alive in ways like never before.  It was the turning point that allowed for all other healing to follow.

If you're reading this today and don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I urge you to do that right now.  You never know when it might be your last chance. He will change your life in ways you can never even imagine, but most of all, He wants to save your soul so you can spend eternity with Him!  For more information on the most important decision you will ever make in your life, please see this resource: Billy Graham Association.

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14)

I have struggled with two issues for almost my entire life: worrying about my health and poor body image. Regarding my health, even after becoming a Christian, I held on tight to my worries, thinking that by them I could somehow control something bad not happening to me.  I spent most of my younger years going from doctor to doctor having test after test all so they could reassure me that my heart, brain, kidneys, you name it, were functioning just fine. I trust in doctors; I also trusted in myself. I spent many, many years obsessing over the latest fad diets too. Whatever the latest research told me about what to eat or what not to eat to not get cancer or some other kind of disease, I jumped on the wagon. Same with fitness, but this obsession related to my body image. As a young teenager, I dealt with an eating disorder. I carried my insecurities into adulthood,never quite measuring up to whatever image I thought I should be in my own mind. Since I work out at home, I wasted tons of money on the latest and greatest home fitness routines which made the empty promise to keep me in tip top shape and looking my best. It was exhausting because just when I thought I had it right, something else came along. New fitness studies would come out contradicting what I had previously read, not to mention the constant conflicting research on nutrition.  This inner turmoil was going on all while being a Bible believing and supposed Christ trusting Christian. 

After my diagnosis was made I spent a lot of time thinking about how I really had no control over my health at all. I couldn't exercise anymore so trying to get or remain "perfect" was out of the question. All I had was the Lord and nothing else to put my trust in that I used to. I remember the day when He said to me, "Christine, clearly you cannot control your health. You couldn't stop your ear damage and nothing but time, rehabilitation and my will can fix it. You can't diet your way back to health and right now you can't even exercise. A 10 minute walk exhausts you and throws your balance system into a tailspin. Your worth is in Me; I don't look at the outward appearance. You're right, you will never measure up to the world because you don't belong to it. Stop conforming to the world, stop trusting in yourself; eat from the bounty I have provided and when you're better, just do some sensible workouts that will strengthen you to serve ME, not yourself, for that is the purpose of a healthy body. Now confess your idolatry and trust Me."

Wow. I cannot even put into words what a heavy load has been lifted by my repentance of this idolatry. You may wonder how food and exercise can be an idol, but for me food was everything I put my faith and trust in to make me healthy and exercise was something I used to find my worth. These are things that rightfully belong to Christ. My worth is in Him. My life is in His hands. He alone deserves praise and worship. This is something I have struggled with for about 20 years. The most amazing part about it is that freedom from this bondage is something I actually prayed for weeks before I ever even got sick! I had asked the Lord to take these burdens from me at times before, but I never fully gave them up. I was just too afraid of letting go of control. I was determined this year to change but had no idea what it would take to get me there. Here is a prayer that I wrote and saved in my email drafts on January 1, 2014. I don't normally type out my prayers but God knew I would refer back to it in complete amazement at His transforming work.

Dear Lord, I can't change myself but when I commit to offering my life to you and renewing my mind through your word, You can and will change me. I want a healthy lifestyle of eating what's best for me and exercising, but I can't seem to stick with it on my own and it's discouraging. I know that I focus on healthy living for the wrong reasons and I pray that I care less about how it will make me look, and focus more on having a healthy body and mind that can better serve you. Help me to let go of any negative thought patterns and idols that stand in my way of living in your truth and the best life you have for me. I desire more than anything to spend time with you daily and to do the good works that you have prepared beforehand for me. Please help me to accomplish these things, in Jesus name I pray! - January 1, 2014

Amazing! This prayer was written weeks before I ever got sick, the same sickness He used to remove these burdens from my life. So, setting aside the sin that so easily entangle[d] me (Hebrews 12:1), I asked my husband to put a block on our computer from a fitness site that I used to spend hours reading. I also began to purge my life of all my workout DVDs. All my prized workouts that I put my hope in to satisfy me (meaningless to God!), were now either sold or trash bound. The only ones I kept were workouts by a Christian company set to Christian music with scripture throughout. I also deleted all the food blogs I had bookmarked on our computer and got rid of any cookbooks that preached superiority in their way of eating. It may sound silly to some, but this was a huge step of obedience and subsequent freedom for me! “I consider [it all] garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8) I asked the Lord to give me the desire to eat foods again that I had formally forbidden myself because of their alleged negative health effects and He was more than happy to do so. It didn't take long before I was eating normally again, no longer afraid of certain food groups. What freedom.

"The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all" (Psalm 103:19)

At first I thought that my illness might be a spiritual attack. What I learned through studying the scriptures was that regardless of whether it was an attack from satan or God allowed it, that He was in control. He either causes our circumstances or allows them to happen (Deut 32:39).  Have you ever read the story of Job? All of the heartache Job faced through the loss of his family, all of his possessions and even the loss of his health, was caused by Satan, who needed permission from God to lift a finger against him! (Job 1:6-12, 2:1-6)

I used to be afraid of the devil. Sad, but true. I used to think if I prayed out loud and talked about my fears, he would know them and use them against me. As it turns out, he does know my fears and does try to use them against me, but praise God for being my El Elyon, the God most high and sovereign!! I learned this name through one of the Bible studies I worked through while being sick, a book I highly recommend!! (Lord, I Want to know You by Kay Arthur). Knowing that nothing can touch my life without His divine approval or will has given me the assurance that everything that happens to me has a divine purpose. It gave my suffering more meaning. Whether He caused it or He allowed it, He clearly has a plan in it all and it’s not to harm me, but to somehow make me something better, more like His Son. So take that devil (who I’m no longer afraid of by the way).  

I already shared my assurance of my salvation above, but I wanted to touch more on the assurance that Jesus is mine and how it has changed my life. My favorite hymn of all time is “In Christ Alone”. As I used to sing the first verse, I would always get sad and sometimes even cry because I never really felt like I knew Jesus as the person He was being described as in the song and it was something I longed for. Another prayer of mine has always been to know Him this way, the way He is described in the song, more intimately and to experience Him in such ways that I never had before. I used to fear I would get to heaven and hear Him say “depart, I never knew you” (Mt 7:23). I didn't know it would take this illness to answer this prayer as well, but answer it He did! Throughout this whole illness I've spent countless hours in prayer and in Bible study. I have heard from the Lord many times, He has encouraged me, answered prayer, carried me, helped me, filled me with peace and hope. Now I long to see Him, to run into the arms of my creator, all-sufficient one, provider, healer, shepard, strength, strong tower, peace, helper, Lord and Master, my all in all. I know Him and He knows me and will never tell me to depart. And now, I can confidently sing with tears of joy that He is all of this to me personally, and more:

In Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song.  This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are stilled, when strivings cease.  My comforter, my all in all, here in the love of Christ I stand!

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31)

Through my study on 1 John that I mentioned above, the Lord really worked on me regarding the condition of my heart. How can I love God yet hate my brother? (1 John 4:20) While I couldn't think of any Christian brothers or sisters I “hated”, I could certainly bring to mind some others. The Lord brought to mind all the times I was offended, hurt or a miscommunication occurred and I let it turn to bitterness, anger and actual hatred. I tried to justify myself by telling God they weren't brothers or sisters in Christ that I hated, so was I off the hook? I knew better, I was just reaching. It was undeniable, I was walking in darkness and needed to confess my sins and be cleansed (1 John 1:6, 9). Right then and there, in my room and on my bed, I remember it well, I asked the Lord to forgive me of all the anger and hatred and bitterness. I sought forgiveness from those who I needed to ask. I asked the Lord to give me a heart for the people I did not get along with, to love them and to pray for them. I have been able to do that to this day and it is only by His transforming work and the work of the Holy Spirit that this is possible. 

As you can see, the Lord has done so much work in my life spiritually through this illness that, although I don't want to be sick, I wouldn't trade how He has changed me for anything. Letting go of all of the idolatry, bitterness, hatred, unforgiveness and lies I was believing, and being assured of my salvation, has completely transformed my walk with the Lord. I had no idea all this work needed to be done, but He did. My prayers used to be half-hearted as I was unsure if He would even hear me, but now they are bold. I used to pray in my mind but now I pray out loud, and I pray scripture. My communication with God and my understanding of His word are completely alive and unhindered now. I know He hears me and loves me and all I want is to serve Him. I know I don’t deserve His love and faithfulness and nothing I can ever do or say this side of eternity could ever express my gratefulness to Him for changing me the way He has. It took an illness that forced me to have no where to turn but to Him and to lay aside and repent of all my meaningless idols, wrongful and sinful thoughts and behavior to show me who I am to live for.  It also gave me a deeper faith and understanding of His character. My heart just overflows with love and gratefulness to my Savior and King who I can never repay.

I used to pray when I first got sick that the Lord would please just put me back the the way I used to be, you know, not dizzy all the time! Now I shudder to think that prayer be answered. Instead I pray: “Dear Lord, please don’t ever let me go back to who I used to be. I don’t want to be physically whole but spiritually deficient”. That was who I was. When my physical healing comes, it will be a new day for a new creation. When the day of my complete physical healing comes, it will be a beautiful day! I can just taste it!! But it will mean even more now. It has been an incredible 4 months with spiritual growth I could have never imagined. And yes, I can find joy in my suffering not only because I have His joy in me (John 15:11), but also because my Lord loved me enough to cause my temporal body momentary pain and suffering in order to bring health and healing to my soul.

Now I'm not saying that everyone who is sick has sin in their life that needs to be dealt with. I'm not even saying that I believe I got sick because of the sin itself. I believe that God is using this illness to deal with me spiritually in ways I needed healing. Regardless of the reason, there is always a purpose in suffering that is beyond ourselves.  I read an article about trials recently and really liked their comparison of how God uses our suffering to make us whole just as a doctor re-breaks an arm in order for it to heal whole. The re-break caused temporary harm and momentary pain to the patient, but in the end, it was for his greater good. 

" Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)

"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." (1 Peter 5:10)

"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." (2 Corinthians 3-5) 

I’ll be honest and say that of course I still have my days where I feel discouraged and upset that I’m still sick and I surely let God know it!  But the truth is that I am getting better. The truth is that the Lord commands me not to be discouraged (Joshua 1:9) so I cry out to Him for encouragement and the strength to go on, and He always provides it. I also know there is still more spiritual work to be done and that I am not yet perfected. In the words of Paul “but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me… 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” (Phil 3:12-14)

I hope that by this post you have found encouragement knowing that God loves you, He hears your prayers and answers them; He never leaves you alone to face your trials!  Look at all the work He has done in my life!  He wants to be a part of every part of your life too.  Just surrender to Him!  Use this time of illness, this season, to glorify Him any way you can. Keep looking to Jesus, above the circumstances.  He will give you the strength, peace, perseverance and joy to go on.  So many times I felt like I could not go on and I have, but only because of Him. He works best when you've come to the end of yourself, and He gets the glory!

If you're going through an illness right now, please feel free to share any prayer requests you might have.  It would be my honor and privilege to pray for you.  Please share any praise reports as well!   To Him be the glory!