Sunday, November 5, 2017

A New Song

"I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him."
Psalm 40:1-3

It's been four months since my last post, and I wanted to share how far the Lord has brought me, and all of the work He has been doing in my life, since losing my mother and grandmother.

First, through a string of God ordained events and prayer, I was told by someone at my church about a faith-based grief support group called Grief Share.  I had been praying for some type of grief counseling but had never considered support in a group setting.  As God would have it, there was a Grief Share group going on 20 minutes from my house at just the time I needed it. It's a 13 week program (I joined in on week 4) with videos and a workbook, all built upon the word of God. It was exactly what I needed to work through my grief. It touched upon all of the things I was struggling with such as guilt, regret, what ifs, if only, why God??, what is my new normal?, loneliness and more. I found comfort in the videos as others shared their experiences, but most of all from all of the scriptures presented each week in the homework and discussions. Nothing heals like the word of God because His word is living, and it is truth and it touches and restores the deepest parts of your soul. Somehow along the way I was able to let go of all my feelings of guilt and regrets and what ifs, and to "trust in Him with all of [my] heart, and lean not on my own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5). I not only found found healing through this process, but I also met a great group of people who I still keep in contact with, which leads me to my next blessing on this journey.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). I couldn't imagine at the time, as you can read in my last post, what good could come from such sorrow. Through my Grief Share experience, I met a woman in the group who felt led to invite me to her Bible study. I hadn't been a part of one in ages, but had been praying for a group just like this for a long time. The answer to this prayer wasn't even a thought in my mind as I was dealing with all of my loss this year, but here it was right in front of me at this point in time. I decided to join her, and it has been the best thing I have experienced in my spiritual walk in a very long time. God used my loss to meet this woman who invited me to her study, and it is good. I am so thankful and blessed beyond measure by this new group of women I now call friends who pray for me, uplift and encourage me, and most of all assist in the growth, understanding and application of God's word in my life. I can't even express how much I look forward to our weekly meetings, and how thankful I am to God for this blessing. It has helped me heal even more.  I should note that my healing and growth was not an overnight process. I had to fight through anxiety, intense emotional grief and not wanting to get out of bed almost daily, and instead to walk by faith trusting God to carry me through one day at a time. As I sit here and type, I still, honestly, cannot believe His faithfulness to me and His love for me to lift me out of my pit, and to put a new song in my mouth (Psalm 40 referenced above).  

One of my cries to God after I lost my mother was a prayer that I felt I was stuck in this pit that I would never get out of. I know His word says otherwise, but the crushing sorrow and despair made it seem impossible. I could not see a way out and I thought this time, I would be lost for good. As I mentioned, I spent a lot of time not even wanting to get out of bed, but as months went by and my healing began to take place, I sat one day in my prayer time praising Jesus with pure joy for all of the work He was doing in my life.  All of a sudden, in the midst of my praise, Psalm 40 popped into my head and I realized He had taken me out of that pit and put a new song of praise in my mouth, a praise to my God! (Psalm 40:1-3). It was one of those moments that only those who know God can understand that just takes your breath away when you realize how His promises have come true in your life. I sat there in awe, and I still sit here in awe as I think about it. 

One last thing I would like to share is how God gave me the scripture from Isaiah 43:2 the day after I lost my mom, "When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown". For a long time that was my life verse as I clung to His promise that I would not drown in my river of sorrow. That was in June. My birthday is in October, and as I thought about my birthday shortly after my mom passed away, I couldn't bear the thought of having another one without her. I prayed a lot for God to help me get through my birthday, a date that loomed over me as the day drew closer. When the day came, I was in the middle of an at-home Bible study (aside from my group in person) and the scripture for the day was Isaiah 43:2, the same scripture He used to promise me that I would not drown.  That promise came full circle as I sat there on my birthday, a day I had dreaded and didn't think I would get through without my mom, and realized that there was joy and peace and the ability to endure it. Although I cried as I thought of my mom and how I missed her phone call and her silly little birthday song she would sing to me, I was able to smile and enjoy the day in a way that only God could have provided and in a way I never could have imagined. 

So, God is good. He is good even when circumstances are very bad. He is in control and His promises are true. Jesus is Faithful and True. Those are His names, along with Healer, Comforter, Provider, Prince of Peace, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and more. He is with us in our darkest, and carries us through to the other side of our pain. His mercies truly are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and He makes beauty from our ashes (Isaiah 61:3). He promises that He has good plans for my life, with a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11), and all things work together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Amen. Thank you Lord for blessing me in ways I never thought or dreamed possible, and in ways I know I don't deserve. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Oh, My Soul

Eleven days after my last post, my mother passed away after a week long stay at the hospital. I don't even know how to put into words how deeply I'm grieving.  It came as a complete surprise. 

In my last post, I had mentioned my Lyme Disease relapse, which was confirmed by my Lyme doctor just one day before my mother entered the hospital. I had managed about 2 1/2 weeks of antibiotics and all of my other herbal medications and supplements before throwing in the towel. It was just too much to keep up with while living in the hospital ICU. Thankfully, I somehow no longer have any obvious Lyme symptoms, but my body and mind are feeling the strain of emotional stress once again. As I talked about recently, my grandmother also passed away at the end of April.  She was my mother's mother, and the two of them were like two peas in a pod. I guess they were never meant to be apart for long.

Going through this experience with my mother and all that happened to her, ending in her passing, has really challenged my faith. I still believe, and I still know where my greatest and ultimate healing and comfort comes from, but it's hard. I get angry, I question, I feel depressed and anxious and utterly crushed, but as Peter once asked Jesus, "Lord, to whom else shall [I] go"? (John 6:68)

The Lord has given me the following verses loud and clear, over the past few weeks, but I struggle to rest in the truth of what they say verses my overwhelming grief, sadness, confusion, heartache and disappointment: 

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown." (Isaiah 43:2)

This was the scripture in my devotional the day after my mother passed away. I knew it was especially for me that day because I had been praying just before I read it, that I felt like I was going to drown in my grief. Every time I feel that way, I think of this scripture.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose". (Romans 8:28)

I'll be honest, I cannot possibly fathom the good that will come of this. It's what He promises, and His Word is true, but for now I'll just leave it at that. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5)

This one is special to me because it was my mother's favorite verse, and she asked me to make a painting of it for her, which I gave to her for her birthday this year.  It has come up in many different meaningful ways since her passing. The events leading up to her passing away were traumatizing beyond any experience I've had, and lets just say if ever there was a time for me to lean not on my own understanding, this would be it. 

If you're reading this today, I ask that you please keep me and my family in prayer. We have a long road of healing ahead.  I love this song by Casting Crowns, Oh, My Soul, which I feel right now speaks deeply into my life. I pray you take a listen and find encouragement for your own life, that one day He will make beauty from our ashes. (Isaiah 61:3)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lyme Disease, we meet again!

The picture posted here has nothing to do with my blog post. I just thought I'd share one of the latest paintings from my Etsy shop, LivingWordDecor. I made it for a friend's birthday and liked it so much that I decided to list it for sale!

So, as my post suggests, I am now in what I believe to be a relapse of Lyme disease. Darn, I was doing so well! As you may know from previous posts, my grandma lived with me and my husband, and I was her full-time caregiver. The past 6 months have brought unending amounts of emotional stress for me in regards to her and her health. She was hospitalized and put on hospice to die, only to recover. She developed dementia, which meant I lost a lot of sleep as she yelled out for me on countless nights. Despite my ability to maintain an exercise routine, I struggled with my diet and introduced a lot of sugar again. Then, my grandma did pass away at home on August 28, at the age of 99. I was with her by her bedside as she took her last breath.  I mention all this to paint a picture of what I feel led to my relapse. Maybe it had nothing to do with it, but to say I was stretched beyond my limits physically for quite some time now would be an understatement. I'm not complaining, I would do it all over again for her. But I do think it contributed to my immune system suffering a blow.  Maybe it's a total coincidence but, either way, it is what it is.

After my grandma was buried and all was said and done, I felt that crushing fatigue that is all too familiar. I blamed it on the grieving process and my body needing genuine rest that I had not previously had for a long time time. So I rested and went about with my normal routine. But week after week new symptoms would creep back in, with the migrating joint pain being the worst. I went for extensive blood work which, not surprisingly, showed everything was "normal". However, given my history and symptoms, I was started on a one month course of antibiotics. I added back in all of my herbal supplements and vitamins I was taking as well. 

Since starting the medications I feel 10x worse, which I remember happening last time. It's only confirmation to me that I'm on the right course with treatment. I'm trying not to let it get me down but it's so disappointing and discouraging. However, I hold on to my faith that I often write about, knowing the Lord is in control and has His purpose in this season. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goodbye 2016!

It's been a long time since I blogged and I felt the desire to share how things are going now that a new year is upon us. It has been one heck of a year for me with so many things that have happened, it truly feels like several years have passed.  My sister keeps a "memories jar" every year and goes through everything she puts into it on New Year's Eve. She text me a picture on the last day of 2016 to share with me her recorded memory of us going out to celebrate the end of my Lyme treatment. I have to say it gave me tears not just because she thought enough to save that date in her jar, but also to see how far I've come.  Praise God!

As I go back and re-read some of the posts here on my blog, it amazes me what the Lord has done in my life and put on my heart to share in times past. I am so grateful for all the Lord has accomplished in me these past few years.  I am so thankful I started this blog and shared all He has done because it's my own personal account of His faithfulness in my life that I really need to read and re-read more often.

As of my last post, I had finished my treatment for Lyme and was starting to get my life back together, and praying for the best outcome off of medication. I'm happy to say that, six months later, I am doing really, really well with no relapse!  The first few months off of medication, my body seemed to still go through a cycle of every 4-6 weeks not feeling well and then better again, but my only real symptom was the fatigue and just feeling "off". I couldn't get back into any kind of aerobic activity or strength training without feeling too wiped out to face the next day. However, I was still way more than 50% better than ever and symptom free, so I kept plugging along. It wasn't until September of 2016 that I made the decision to cut all refined sugar out of my diet. (I have been told that sugar feeds the Lyme bacteria) At the same time, I was introduced to Pilates workouts online by a friend and decided to give them a try. Ever since I changed my diet and scaled back the intensity of my workouts, my healing has jumped from over 50% to just about 100%. I really credit the even more dramatic improvement to giving up sugar.  The past 4 months of Pilates and walking have been the first time in years I have been able to stay consistent with exercise and I feel better and stronger than ever.  I rarely need my afternoon naps anymore. I feel GREAT! I have even gotten well enough and strong enough to start hour long water aerobic classes that I am also enjoying!  I never thought I'd ever be back to the fitness level I'm at again, but here I am. Praise God!  I just want to be strong and healthy to have a body that's fit enough to serve Him and I know He is honoring that motivation.

I'm not sure I've talked much about care-giving for my grandma (who lives with me) on the blog, but I have been doing that full-time for the past 3 years. I took care of her before my diagnosis, during my treatment and now after being sick myself and that has certainly been a story of God's strength in my weakness in itself. This year has been a very difficult one for her health and has tried and tested me more than ever as well. She has had 3 hospitalizations, developed dementia, went from walking to wheelchair bound, and was even dying and on hospice just a few short weeks ago. God is not done with her yet though because He granted her a miraculous healing and she is home with us again (another long story in itself)!  Just as He used my sickness to shape and transform me, He has been using my situation with my grandmother to do the same.  She is 99 years old and will be turning 100 this November!

This past year of 2016 has certainly been one of the longest and most trying years, but I'm thankful for all the blessings too. While I'm happy to leave it behind at the start of 2017, I'm so grateful to look back on my healing, my grandma's many healings, all the ways the Lord has provided for us and the success of my Etsy shop! I'm still selling paintings to whomever the Lord leads to my store and that has been a blessing too. I don't know what this new year will hold, but He does. If the Lord had told me all I would endure last year, I would never think I could survive it all.  Looking back on not only surviving it all, but thriving, I know I can face anything that comes my way because He is with me.