I’m Coming Out

I’m coming out. Coming clean, if I may. Brutally honest. I’ve been struggling. Walking the tight rope between self pity and pride. That uncomfortable gray area somewhere between “help me!” and “what are you talking about? I’m fine!” I know that I’m not fine but I’m too prideful to risk pity.

My very best friends have no idea what my day to day life is like. I’m a master deflector. I’ve learned to brilliantly navigate through relationships. With the utmost love and genuine care I invest my time and ear listening to my friends trials and triumphs. I was a journalism major and I’m an accomplished interviewer. I’m not nearly as quick to let others uncover the real scoop about my life. And as of late this is by design.

And yet how can I write about my relationship with Christ if I can’t be truly honest? How can I have genuine, sincere, meaningful relationships if I don’t want to be exposed? Honest? And why is it that some topics transparency is acceptable and others show weakness or failure in the eyes of the world?

How about you? What difficulties are you hiding from the world? What pain do you go to great lengths to hide? Do you unload on your spouse and kids behind closed doors only to repaint your persona once you step outside of your four walls?

We live in a confusing time in history. As a human race we rally around the obscure only to crucify what we deem as weak. Broken. We base self worth on selfies, homes, cars, education, vacations, and our vain accolades to promote our children. We place the highest value on busyness, being seen, self promotion, and self enrichment. In other words, success is perfection that we must create, orchestrate, and perform in order to be of value or worth. Everything is a fight to win perfection.

We turn cancer patients into “survivors”. Those battling disease into “warriors”. Addicts are “recovering”. Marriages that fall apart into “battles”. We take every day human life experiences and rally behind them to make them socially acceptable by simply labeling them something to justify the “weakness” that person is walking through.

Does anyone find this crazy? Doesn’t the bible clearly tell us in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “For when I am weak, then I am strong”? God knew and God knows we all face weaknesses and that is a good thing!! It is in that weakness that we let Him take the burden from us. It is in that weakness that we have the opportunity to shine. The enemy has convinced the world that weakness is failure and can only be corrected by self help. And if we label it something then it’s socially acceptable to be the walking wounded. Otherwise we are just broken.

Today is World Scleroderma Day. Since scleroderma is part of my testimony I thought I would share with you what it’s like living with a chronic, incurable and ultimately terminal illness. It sucks. It’s watching your body become broken. It’s loosing independence. It’s living with disfigurement. It’s painful. It’s isolating. It’s sometimes terrifying. Its heartbreaking. It’s embarrassing. Often shameful. Exhausting. Expensive. I have absolutely no control. Zero.

And yet the disease has allowed me to see the bigger picture. The disease has let me personally know Jesus. The disease has let me see that pre- scleroderma I was infected too. I was diseased with self. Self everything. I do not believe that God makes bad things happen. But I do believe God brings to light who we really are when bad things do happen.

I’m broken. God knows, people, I am broken. And I’ve spent the last month screaming at my husband because of all I can’t do. I take pills to be able to swallow. I take pills to make my non existent digestive system function. I take injections for my joints. I take vitamins and probiotics to fight the never ending pool of bacterial overgrowth in my gut. I inhale things to get the fluid out of my lungs. I swallow more pills to keep flushing my kidneys. I get injections in my skull to fight the blinding headaches. I rub prescription creams all over the ulcers on my extremities. I only eat foods that won’t make me violently sick or choke. I inject myself with chemo drugs every Sunday hoping to achieve remission. I can’t stay awake during the day and I can’t sleep at night. I am a trapped in a body that I can not control.

In the worlds eye–and admittedly in my mind during quarterly melt downs–I’m a failure. But guess what? This ain’t forever.! And through all of this I still see Jesus. I see Him in the sunrise. I see Him in the sunset. I see Him in my garden. I see Him in the texts from friends. I hear Him in phone calls. I hear Him in my husbands voice as he whispers “I’d take it for you if I could”. I hear it in my grown children’s “I love you, Mama”. I feel Him in the sunshine. I feel Him in my dogs warm snuggles. I feel Him in music blaring from my car stereo.

Through weakness I have become strong. Strong enough to be dressed and ready for the world and most days with a smile on my face. Strong enough and smart enough to hunt down, diagnose, and research every new symptom that pops up. Strong enough to know when I’m not strong enough to push through. Strong enough to live outside of my circumstances by investing in relationships other than focusing solely on me. Smart enough to know that life isn’t a do over. Life is the the question “what are you going to do? Are you going to make a difference? Let Jesus shine? Or are you going to succumb to mediocrity?”

I am physically broken but in Him I am perfect. In Him I have a label… “I am His”.

“Never give up”-Luke 18:1

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Plugged Into Busyness

Admittedly my phone is essentially an appendage. If we are being honest I guess you could say that makes me a hypocrite. Nothing bothers me more than people who don’t use phone etiquette. Case in point my kids and my better half.

Yesterday my daughter and I were driving out of town. We were carrying on, what I thought to be, a lovely conversation. Until I realized she wasn’t smiling at me but rather at the texts that were popping up on her phone. I expressed how rude I think she and her generation are. What did she do? Held eye contact with me, to make me think she was engaged, all the while those fingers were carrying on a text conversation with someone else.

I proceeded to tell my daughter that our next family gathering would be phone free. I would be the obnoxious parent who takes away all of the phones. “We are going to enjoy a phone free zone”. “Oh, pahleeze Mama” was the smiling response I received fingers still blindly text typing.

Hmmm, I will show them. I’ve already designed (in my mind) the basket thingy in which I will collect and place all devices. I will force my family to converse. Hold their phones hostage. Yes. Yes, I will by God. And they will love it. Because I tell them they do. Yep, the ole dog can still bark.

Do you ever catch yourself praying and the next thing you know you are making a grocery list in your mind? Or you get up early to read scripture and realize you have no idea what you’ve just read? As an added bonus you’ve gone over everything on your to do list for that day? Heck, for the whole week for that matter.

Our minds are on such overdrive we don’t even know how to quiet them. Silence is a lost luxury. I’d be willing to bet that most children don’t even know how to day dream. The good stuff. Like in elementary school, in early Spring, when your teacher was explaining a lesson. You glanced out the window. Innocently watching the kids playing during recess. Your mind wandered to extraordinary super hero sized adventures. The next thing you knew the bell was ringing. Nope. Guarantee day dreams are no longer a thing. Kids are scheming and dreaming of ways to get back on their phones.

Don’t be fooled for one second. The enemy is masterful. He has an entire world believing the lie that we must be busy. We must be engaged in something all of the time. If you are not busy you are not important. If you are not making lists, making plans, making meals, making meetings, making money you are making nothing of your life. And we believe him!

If satan can keep us busy? Well, he can keep us from seeing the real splendor of our daily lives. If we put our phones down we will notice the beautiful blue sky. The love between the elderly couple holding hands walking through the grocery store parking lot. The baby rabbits eating grass in our backyards. The birds nest in our ferns on our front porch. The lightening bugs in our neighborhood. The really mundane extraordinarily beautiful gifts we overlook every single day. We miss these things when we are checked out of life and plugged into the busyness.

If we started looking up more frequently we would be in awe of who God is. If we were in awe of who God is we wouldn’t be so in awe of the mindless activities that clutter our lives.

This week put your phone on silent. Walk outside. Listen to the leaves rustling in the breeze. Watch the sunset. Gaze up at the stars. Call the enemy what he is: a big fat liar. A thief stealing our time, talent, and attention. Kick him to the curb.

Spend some time with the One who created it all for you. Enjoy His magnificence. Thank God for the gift of His time. Ask Him to help you make time to be plugged into Him.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”-Philippians 4:6

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He Is The Answer

I wake up jump out of bed. I forget the realities of my body. Every morning it’s the same thing. Hot searing daggers shoot into the bottom of my feet as they hit the floor. Every morning I forget. And every morning it takes my breath away. I wobble as my body adjusts to the fire in my feet.

You are just waking up after a long restful nights sleep. I haven’t slept through the night in ten years. I toss all night as I readjust my body to the pain it feels when laying in one position for too long. If I’ve managed to get three to four hours of uninterrupted sleep I usually wake up with a headache from grinding my teeth at some point in the night. If I’ve actually slept four to five hours? I wake up with horrible back pain and pain upon emptying my bladder. My slowed kidneys having held in toxins, which are now circulating in my system, for far too many hours.

If I don’t sleep? I wake up feeling like you do when you’ve had an arduous workout. Except you find relief once you start moving. It takes me at least 2 days to not feel as if the muscles are pulling away from the bone.

Once up I hobble to the kitchen to start coffee. As I walk the fibroma tumors jab into the arches of my feet. I can no longer digest artificial sweeteners, chemicals or dairy. I measure out the precise amount of stevia and coconut milk I can ingest. I sip my coffee and wait for the caffeine to stimulate my bowels. If it does? Win win! I’ll be able to zip my jeans up today. If the coffee doesn’t stimulate my digestive tract? I’m left unable to zip my jeans and a horrible burning in my gut that will linger for hours. Each morning is a gamble.

Next I make my smoothie. Not because it’s a fad or it makes me skinny. I’m fat from toxins, fluid, inflammation and meds. I drink a smoothie because this early in the morning I will choke on anything heavy. Proteins will cause my esophagus to spasm. Breads and cereals are out because of the celiac disease. Anything with unknown chemicals are not an option for fear of allergic reaction.

Once I’ve finished my breakfast and coated my stomach I swallow two pills for my kidneys, a pill for my esophagus, a pill for my thyroid, a pill for migraines, a pill for nausea, a supplement for hair loss. I then drink 6 oz of straight fiber to keep my intestines moving.

I can now begin my day.

I take a shower. If the hot water loosens up my joints I shave my legs and wash my hair. Although if I stay in the hot water too long it starts a Reynauds attack. This is when my blood vessels over react to cold or hot conditions. The vessels spasm in my feet and hands. The pain is akin to scalding water. Once out of the shower I carefully apply lotion over my wrinkly face and tightening thickened skin. If my arms and neck loosen enough I blow dry my hair before muscle cramps set in my hands, neck and shoulders.

Next I go through a five step process to cover all of the pigmented spots on my face. Cover the open sores on my hands, fingers and top of my feet. I carefully apply lip color in a five fold step. I’ve masterfully learned which colors will work to hide my purple lips. They are purple from lack of blood flow. It doesn’t bother me but I find it does concern people who look at me. If I have lipstick on it’s never a topic for conversation.

Before I leave the house I make sure I have my epipen, migraine rescue meds, nausea medicine, antacid and medicine alert list with me. I’m out the door with several bottles of water to keep my throat moist, to help me better swallow. Water is also my life line–keeps my bowels moving and my kidneys flushed. If my stomach spasms during all of this it’s back to the bathroom I go.

This whole process takes two to three hours every single morning. Every single day. For the rest of my life.

If I go out to lunch I can’t eat a salad if there are anchovies or any sort of seafood on the salad bar. I will go into anaphylactic shock. I can’t eat anything with gluten or I’ll be vomiting and or doubled over in abdominal pain within thirty minutes. I can’t eat a chef salad or any salad that uses prepackaged deli meats or chicken because the nitrates will trigger a migraine and or esophagus spasm. Every single bite I take is a gamble as to whether I’ll end up in the ER. I can not spontaneously go out to eat anymore. Unless I personally know the chef and or staff I just order water.

Every single aspect of my life is planning. Everything. When we travel it has to be within a drive able distance. The pressure from flying causes hemiplegic migraines which mimic stroke. When choosing accommodations I have to research what is closest to the ER. Which hotel has hardwood floors (less likely to have mold). Is there breakfast? Do they serve seafood? Can I get fruit? Can I bring my own blender? Is there a refrigerator in the room that can house my live probiotics? Do they have a walk in shower? Do they have individual heating and air units (mold and mildew) or central air?

I use the “around me” app to figure out where all public restrooms are in case I have bowels spasms. I try to locate a fresh market or whole foods within close proximity to our hotel enabling me to have access to safe food if I cant eat in the restaurants we are dining. If there are none? I don’t eat at all. If I don’t eat I can be guaranteed acid build up and esophagus spasms and a migraine. Not planning is not an option.

Your day probably consists of going to the gym or work. I go to physical therapy once a week to try and keep my muscles and skin fluid. Another session once a week to work out the fibroma tumors that are growing on the bottoms of my feet and wrap themselves in my fibrous tissue of my back. The following day is a weekly massage to work out the pain of the previous two day’s physical therapy. One day a week I have a pedicure and manicure to try and cut away the ever thickening skin on my cuticles. If I don’t do this? My fingertips split to the quick and my cuticles pull away from the nail bed risking infection. I usually have a doctors appointment once a month for chronic bladder infections, bowel disfunction and chest fluid.

I no longer drive out of town by myself unless a family member will be in the town I’m traveling too. Anything can trigger an allergic reaction or a stroke like migraine. Unless it is in town I have someone with me in a moving vehicle at all times.

This is my life. I’ve never shared fully the detailed effects of living with a chronic disease. But it’s important you understand, that no matter how bad life is, someone else is walking through difficulties as well. This has been on my heart recently. The national whining. The new it’s all about me generation. The political garbage of believing everyone deserves to be equal.

Guess what? Life is not far. It is not easy and it is not equal. Instead of whining? Ask God to show you how you can make the best of your circumstances. Get over yourself. What I’ve found these past ten years is that “why” no longer matters. “How can I make it better?” still leaves the focus on me. “What can I do  for someone else?” takes me outside of myself. It allows God to do His thing through me.

I no longer can enjoy what you take for granted. I can no longer be spontaneous.  I can, however, still bless those I love with kind words, planning, cooking, decorating and writing. There is no self pity. There is no longer anger (okay not completely true somedays I still whine). And, frankly, there shouldn’t be…not  from any of us. Life is a gift. Each of us just live it out differently. Some of us unwrap it every day with expectancy. Others overlook the beauty of just being here. Whichever way you approach the package? It’s still a gift that He has graciously and lovingly bestowed upon us.

Ten years ago a sunrise or a sunset were beautiful when pointed out to me. Today? I seek them. I look for Him. They remind me that in an ever changing, complicated and confusing world God is still the same. He’s still in control. He knows the end  game. There are no surprises to Him. He knows better than I what the purpose of all this is. He rises with me and ends my day. He is beautiful. He is faithful. He is my alpha and omega.

It is true I am, some would say, trapped in this body. Yet I’ve never been so free. He is the answer people. He is the answer.

“Faith tells me that whatever lies ahead of me God is
already there”-Psalm 119:165

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His Splendor

Saturday my husband and I spent the afternoon at the farm. Two things never cease to amaze me: (1) my husbands zealous love of the land (2) God’s splendor. Which leads me to wonder does God cause that thirst in our souls for His creation? Is that quench a picture of how He wants us to long for Him?

 

I will tell you that the saltwater is something that my soul literally craves. I’ve been known, on more than one occasion, to drive the hour and fifteen minute trek down to the beach just to see the sunrise or sunset. If there are weeks at a time that we can’t pop down, even for the night, I feel a sense of longing. A kind of mourning.

 

I think this is how my husband feels about the farm. I love watching him walk the fields. Checking out animal tracks. Explaining the history of the old tobacco barns and corn cribs. Tell me stories of working the fields with his granddaddy as a little boy. Showing me where various farm hands lived throughout the generations. Verbally painting me the picture of the tenants eating daily lunch of tomatoes, chicken, biscuits, and tea at his grandmothers. His memories of riding shotgun with his granddaddy checking the crops. He’s transfixed in memories and affection. A sense of love and pride for that land.

 

Saturday we went down to the creek i.e. the swamp. On the banks, with spanish moss softly swaying in the cool breeze, we just listened. Listened to the trickle of the water. Listened to the wood ducks. And we watched. We saw a bobcat. At least a dozen deer. And the most spectacular sunset. No cars. No planes. No voices. Literally just the sounds of God’s creation. Complete and total peace. Hallowed ground.

 

God has created a spectacular world for us. The enemy has done a spectacular job of distracting us from it. Spectacular because he’s so very good at it. We believe the lie that we can’t miss out on our television shows, social media, sporting events or action packed filled vacations. We’ve stopped being still. We are “bored” with just being still.

 

I have to believe that God is presenting us with all of His splendor. Right here on earth. No matter how distracted the enemy keeps us God keeps calling us to Him. He is constant and consistent. The stars, the sky, the moon and the sun. Their beauty is unprecedented. Yet we don’t ever look up to the heavens. Ironically we constantly look down. At our phones. At people.

 

The enemy’s time is limited here on earth. God is the Alpha and the Omega. He has no beginning and no end. His majesty is forever. The things of this earth? They have a shelf life.  God is forever. His wonder and glory have no end.

 

This week look up! Thank Him for the promise of a new day. Thank Him for the beauty of the sky, the moon, the stars, the sun. Thank Him for loving us enough to shower us in His splendor.

 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.”-Revelation 21:6

 

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Through His Eyes

I once took an online theological test to find out what my spiritual gifts are. Turns out I was off the charts in mercy, prophecy and discernment. Which makes perfect sense as to why I gravitated to my new red and white ginger jar vase. I discerned that I needed it. I was attracted to the fact that it was sitting all by its lonesome. I knew I had a perfect spot for it in our home.

My husband and I went to a huge warehouse sale Sunday afternoon. People were pulling the blue and white oriental ginger jars off the tables in a frenzy. The big red and white oriental chinoiserie ginger jar caught my eye instantly. “You’re sure? This one and not the large blue and white?” cute husband said. “Yep, that’s the one. It’s perfect”.

Beautifully dressed women glanced our way. Curiously listening to the interaction between my husband and I. You could see their wheels turning. “What is she doing? Blue and white is the trend”. I proudly helped my husband hoist my find over to the checkout table. I knew I had found a treasure. It stood tall, distinctive and set apart.

I’ve always had the ability to see what others sometimes do not. Probably why I drive anyone who knows me crazy. My brain goes 1,000 miles an hour. In a split second I can spot something out of the corner of my eye. I can be deep in conversation with you and in an instant change my focus. Some call it ADD 😀. I like to think of it as creativity.

The reality is that God has wired me differently than most. As a teenager it tore me up inside. I was in a constant state of inner turmoil. I wanted to be like everyone else in dress and activity. I wanted to be on trend. Yet I also had a deep internal struggle of seeing things differently. Some decisions I made were horrible. Like cutting my hair completely off like Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Go’s. Other decisions worked in my favor. Like the whole preppy thing. I had a southern baptist mother–I had been dressed conservatively my entire childhood. Fortunately, for me at least, that was a fashion trend in the 80’s.

It wasn’t until my early 40’s that I realized this “seeing things others don’t” was a blessing and not a curse. I wish I had been a mother in my 20’s who was mature enough to nurture my kids individuality. I thought, back then, that if they had the best they would better fit in. That fitting in would make them happy. That looking like everyone else and doing what everyone else did would make life easier and less confusing for them. I was wrong.

God wants us to see the world differently. He wants us to see the world through His eyes. Through His eyes we can see the beauty in different. Through His eyes we can see magnificent colors. Through His eyes we see what’s important to Him. Through His eyes we find peace in who He created us to be.

If we constantly are trying to blend in? We will live in a state of longing for more. That hole inside of us can never be filled with the standards of the world. That blue and white, currently on point, vase will not make you happy in 90 days if you bought it because everyone else says its “the thing”.

As for me and my over sized awkward unpopular red and white new friend? We are so good. A gigantic smile pops up on my face every time I look at it. To me it’s beautiful because it’s not popular . It’s a reminder that He’s gifted me to see the world differently. To me? It’s perfect.

“When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. “-Psalm 94:19

 

 (I’m all about a beautiful blue & white vase👍🏻 Purely an illustration that all jars are beautiful not just the popular ones. No blue and white ginger jars were intentionally condemned in this post 😉).