A Martha becoming a Mary

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.

40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,

42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42

Before chronic illnesses slowed me down, my hubby called me the “Energizer Bunny” because I kept going and going and going. I was also very much a Martha go, go, go and do, do, do, the hostess with the mostest, involved in many church activities, walking, going to the gym, swimming, gardening, hosting smaller and all church events at our home that I also made sure were perfectly decorated.

In my Martha state, I was constantly fussing about how everything was done and worrying about the impressions I made on people. I spent time in the Word to prepare for Bible studies I attended to make sure I was more prepared and excelling more than others attending. I was forever concerned about what people thought of me, wanting to make the right impression with my looks, my actions, my words and my abilities. Life was frantic, distracted, fear filled and frenzied much more often than it was peaceful, focused, relaxed and faith filled.

My life suddenly changed in 2009. That November I fell while photographing fall leaves when I stepped into a pothole concealed by colorful autumn leaves. I ended up needing eleven stitches on my split open knee. After one dose of sulfa antibiotics I landed in ER with my first anaphylactic reaction. Next thing I knew I was reacting to all sorts of things I had previously tolerated. Fragrances , chemicals, cleaners, toothpastes and many foods suddenly were no longer tolerated. I began feeling like the girl in the bubble. After shuffling from doctors over the next few years received multiple diagnosis including chronic blood cancer, Mast Cell Activation Syndrome(MVAS) and A connective tissue disorder called Ehler Danlos.

As my symptoms increased and my energy ebbed, I really began seeking God, crying out to Him for answers and to show me how to live in this new normal. It was a really hard season of fading health, numerous unknowns and lack of strength to do all I did before. God met me through time in His Word and in prayer. Many sleepless nights due to insomnia, induced by high doses of steroids, were spent studying His Word and in prayer. I began to desire to truly know God and His character. My dear hubby was faithful to often remind me that God has sovereignly ordained us to be together and that we will walk together as a couple through whatever He sovereignly allowed in our lives, including chronic illness, to glorify our God. In this season, I began learning more and more about God’s character. I began to grasp He was Sovereign, holy, faithful, wise, just and good no matter what my circumstances happened to be. God began to help me memorize scriptures and enabled me to apply them to my life. This really strengthened my walk and grew my love for Him. As I spent more time at His feet, He began transforming me from an ultra Martha to a bit of a Mary. During this time of unknown yet failing health, He revealed to me He is most concerned about my eternal good and my being conformed to the image of His Son.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Romans 8:28-29

God met me in amazing ways through examples in family members and friends as well as in His word and prayer. One friend greatly impacted me fairly early in my chronic illness walk, as she and her hubby sat in our home crying tears of joy at all the many ways God has met them and blessed them as she went through surgery, chemo and radiation for breast cancer. That same spring I read two books that greatly impacted me One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Choosing Gratitude by Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Between my friends examples, personal Bible studies and my reading I saw the choice before me. I then purposed in March 2011 and asked God to enable me, regardless of my circumstances, to be a woman of joy and gratitude that ever sits at your feet. I am so grateful for the most part God has answered this request. At the time I did not think of it changing me into more of a Mary, but was one result of that answered prayer.

I am thankful I can trust in His faithfulness and goodness and to know His plans are for my eternal best and realize our earthly life is just a blip in eternity. I honestly believe if God had not slowed me down with various chronic illnesses, I would still be the Energizer Bunny version of a Martha. While lack of energy and symptoms may prevent me from doing many things, most days I can sit at His precious feet, be fed by His Word and pray as the Holy Spirit directs. I am at peace, have joy and gratitude, laugh easily and am so much more relaxed. I am now grateful for any help and even if not done “my way” to accomplish the task as it truly no longer matters. Our marriage is better than ever and we enjoy each other, appreciate each other and love each other more than before. Laughter is frequent and we joke about the plot twists in our life. Now when we have guests over the focus is how to bless them and make them feel our home is a safe, loving haven where before my focus was on how to impress. Sometimes my house is a bit messy and God has even used that to make people feel comfortable and makes me seem more approachable.There are days when I take my eyes off of my precious Savior and put them on me and my circumstances. There are days I must fight for joy and gratitude. I have purposed on those days to think of at least three things I am grateful for and either say them aloud or write them down. That seems to redirect my gaze back to Him, the lover of my soul, the One who sustains me and fills me with His joy, peace and hope.

While I would love to be healed, my prayer is that if God allowed it, I would not forget His using chronic illness to slow me down to transform me into much more of a Mary. The joy, peace, laughter, confidence and freedom from fears I now have from my Lord are of much greater value to me than perfect health. My devotion to my Jesus, my gratitude, my love for the gospel of grace, my compassion for the sufferings of others, love of His Word and prayer have all grown immensely as a result of chronic illness. I can say as the Psalmist said

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. – Psalm 119:71

I would honestly choose to be a chronically ill Mary any day over going back to my former healthy but fearful frantic Martha state. May His transforming grace continually be at work in all of us!

Blessings,

Deb

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Pretending to be Normal

My life in recent years has changed greatly due to multiple chronic illnesses taking up residence in my body. My brain and emotions still feel normal even though my body doesn’t always respond.

I was recently asked in early December if I would like to host a dinner party in our home in appreciation of our church Life Group Leaders on January 5th . We were not planning on going out of town over the holidays and figured with hubby’s help could pick at it and be fine with it knowing would have a day or two of recovery afterwards.

The week before Christmas I looked at flight schedules to where our daughter and her family live and found a killer deal leaving Christmas Eve night. Only $82 for both of our round trips with taxes and everything. My hubby was the one preaching the sermon Sunday morning on Christmas Eve day, so leaving earlier not an option. We talked to our daughter and son-in-love and decided to go for it. Hubby could only stay until the 28the with work and church commitments but I booked my return flight for the morning of January 3.

The week before our trip I was doing a mad scramble trying to pack and get the a table runner and other decor made for the Dinner party. I made lists, meal plans and instructions for hubby to take Christmas tree down etc before I arrived home.

I had a wonderful ten days with my daughter’s family and so enjoyed the time with our four grandchildren between the ages of 6 months and 7 years old. Not sure if it was the lower elevation or joy of being with everybody but physically felt much better while I was there.

I arrived home mid morning on January 3 and life was a blur of trying to stuff reaction symptoms with meds, pushing through pain, cleaning, decorating and cooking. The other pastors and wives took care of prepping the prime rib and dessert which helped immensely. All was done with time to spare so we were able to relax for a few minutes before guests arrived. I popped some extra B-12 sublingual to give me energy and thoroughly enjoyed our evening. God blessed our goal of making the Life Group Leaders feeling blessed, refreshed and appreciated.

I slept or rested all day Saturday and went to church service Sunday morning and a reception that evening. Sunday night, as we returned home, I slammed into the proverbial wall and have been pretty much down for the count all this week. I am having pain, Mast cell reactions, and fighting a bug.

Several years ago I could have and did host many events in my home frequently without any impact. We were part of a church plant that met in a community center and later a school on Sundays so since we had a larger home and no kids at home, we hosted all church events as well as ladies bible studies, life group as well as frequent swim parties and BBQs. I thrived on it and loved every second of it.

When chronic illness struck I began having to count the cost on activities. I still love folks in our home and for the most part have smaller groups over and keep things very low key and simple. I think the masking of my pain by being on a pain medication since early November enabled me to feel better and I easily deceived myself into thinking I could once again do it all, like I was normal. And it was fun to pretend until it all came crashing down.

As I rest up this week, I am reminding myself, what I have shared on here before, to count the cost and decide on things based on eternal benefits and impacting others for Christ. I am also remembering my precious friend JoAnn, who passed away three months ago, always reminding me about not running out of spoons. I need another friend like her who understood limitations from her personal experience and was so fun, caring and full of faith to remind me. If you do not understand what that means read the Spoon Theory.

https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

Would I do it again? Yes. But ask me again next week. 😉

I will include a few shots of the table runner I sewed and from my pretense of being normal. <><

hope all of you are all doing well and counting the cost of all you do in view of what matters in eternity.

Blessings,

Deb

Choosing Faith & Gratitude Amidst Pain

Father in heaven, you know the questions that weigh heavily upon my heart. Just as I rejoice that you have chosen me to be witness to your awesome might, help me move from childhood to maturity about my illness. Let me not resist your plan for me, but go willingly, proclaiming to all that you are God.

Maureen Pratt from her book Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness.

I have found the times pain consumes me my eyes are on myself. I am focused on me and am forgetful of all the pain and suffering my Jesus endured at Calvary. He chose out of His great love to suffer and die for me, for you to make a way to pay for our sins so we can become His children.

Lord, enable me to choose to count it all joy (James 1:1-4)even on the days when pain is intense, others are not understanding or supportive and the long days of what ifs as wait for tests and further diagnosis. Help me to build my faith by recounting and reciting the many promises in your word to change my focus and attitude. In future days of intense pain help me to not wallow in it but to find things to rejoice in and express gratitude

In the name of the one who suffered all thing, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Faith came singing into my room,

And other guests took flight:

Fear and Anxiety, Grief and Gloom

Sped out into the night.

I wondered that such peace could be,

But Faith said gently,”Don’t you see?

They really cannot live with me.”

Author Unknown

Page 29 Grace Grows Best in Winter

The Choice

Sometimes God makes His path so clear, even when the path goes through rough terrains we would rather not travel. God was so kind to give me a vivid illustration of the results of the choices before me when I was in the midst of being diagnosed with chronic illnesses.

two-paths

My health began tanking in 2009 which began a course of visiting numerous doctors and undergoing various tests to discover answers while my symptoms continued to worsen. In March of 2011, I went to yet another doctor who finally diagnosed me with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), high histamine and blood test results that were indicative of some type of blood cancer. On March 30, I was told that my blood test results were way off the charts for a third time and that I would need to be seen by an oncologist who was also a hematologist. Being a former RN who does online research, I was fairly certain I knew that my diagnosis was going to be between “Big C”, an acute blood cancer that may mean only months to live or “Little C”, a chronic blood cancer that likely would not shorten my life expectancy but change how I lived it. We lived in the limbo of not knowing which from March 30 to June 7, 2011.

The vivid illustration God used about the choice I needed to make in response to how I faced whichever diagnosis, came about through a timely visit of our dear friends Earl and Nancy. Earl and Nancy spent two weeks in our home late March/early April 2011 and arrived days before my March 30th appointment. In fact they were waiting in the car with my husband as we swung by for my appointment on our way out of town to visit the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Arizona.

Nancy had her last radiation treatment days before flying down to visit us in Arizona where we lived at the time. In the months before their visit,  she had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation for her second bout of breast cancer. Earl and Nancy sat in our family room recounting all the many ways God had blessed them and met them in the midst of Nancy’s cancer battle while Nancy cried tears of joy and gratitude.

In the same time frame, somebody we knew well, received the news that their spouse had dementia. This response was exactly opposite of Nancy’s. Instead they had responses of anger, bitterness and declaring their life was over and nothing good would ever happen again.

God provided a clear and obvious illustration of the choice set before me in how I would respond to the looming diagnosis possibilities. I could choose the better way, that realizes God’s sovereign hand and respond in faith with joy and gratitude regardless of what the future bought. Or I could choose to be bitter, resentful, angry and ungrateful.

After hearing the news at my doctor’s that my blood results would require follow-up with a hematologist/oncologist, we drove up with our friends to Grand Canyon. That evening we went to the vista point that was supposed to be the best at sunset. The colors were glorious and ever-changing. Standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon watching this amazing sunset I made my choice.

I poured my heart out to God silently as the skies and canyons blazed with a kaleidoscope of colors:

“Oh God, I have no idea what this diagnosis will be. Please, Lord, enable me, whether a few months or a few decades, to be fully present and soak up this gorgeous scenery. Give me the vision and heart to engage and appreciate all of life around me for all of my days. Oh God, one thing I ask, regardless whether it is BIG C or little c, please, please, let me be known as a woman of joy, gratitude and faith. Regardless of how I feel physically, Lord, let me be like Nancy who cried tears of gratitude and joy for all at You did through her cancer. Enable me to have Your joy and contentment and keep me from bitterness, anger, complaining or ingratitude. Remind me of these examples You have so clearly shown me and this choice whenever I am tempted to complain or be resentful. Let my life be a reflection of joy and my testimony be that of a woman who found joy and gratitude in whatever You have sovereignly ordained.”

My choice was confirmed when I first heard  with the song  Blessings by Laura Story and the story behind it on the radio a couple of weeks after my prayer at the Grand Canyon. The words of that song so resonated with me and that song still makes me cry. You can read the story behind the song here.

Later in April 2011, a friend told me about Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts and I immediately bought it. In her book, Ann shares how she overcame tremendous fears and hurts by practicing counting gifts as she would journal things for which she was thankful. This book also confirmed my choice.  Ann Voskamp has continued to encourage me with her blog A Holy Experience and  more recent books.

My pastor asked me in early May 2011 if I would consider leading a ladies Bible Study for two months over the summer using the book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. By this point my hubby and I are almost finding it comical how many ways God was conveying and confirming my choice to ask God to make me a woman of joy and gratitude. I began leading this study in my home with about 15 women the second week of June as I began my first week of chemotherapy. It felt like a combo of early pregnancy, the flu and being hit by a truck the first three weeks on my daily oral chemotherapy until my body adapted to the chemo. Somehow God enabled me to be able to sit in my comfy chair in my family room and facilitate the group those first difficult three weeks. Other women lovingly served me by helping  with set up, snacks and clean up. God used those eight weeks of the study to further impact me as well as impact other women who attended.

I have lived out this choice much like a helpless baby bird who is unable to fend for itself. I was/am dependent on my Heavenly Father to tend me, feed me and strengthen me to walk in my choice. Oh there have been days where I pridefully challenged my Father’s wisdom by trying to convince God I would be more useful and serve Him better with full health. There have been times where self pity and complaining have been where I wanted to dwell. But my God has been so faithful to quickly remind me of the example I saw in Nancy and my choice. I repent and turn again to Him in dependence to enable me to seek Him and the joy that comes from seeing life from eternity’s perspective. When I try to live in joy in my own strength I fail miserably. When I am like Mary in the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and spend precious time in His presence I am once again empowered by His Holy Spirit to rest in His sovereignty and faithfulness and see many things to rejoice and be grateful for in my life.

one thing necessary

I am so grateful for the lesson and choice God put before me early in my chronic illness journey. I have seen many benefits of my illness and how looking for ways to be grateful has helped me to recognize many I would have otherwise missed. I pray I will continue to remain and grow in my dependence on God for my source of strength, faith and joy.

count-it-all-joy

Embracing My Consistently Inconsistent Life

Chronic illness visited me and stayed after a fall in November 2009 that required ten stitches on my knee. When I went to my doctor two days later to have it checked, she started me on a different and stronger antibiotic due to inflammation and concern of a bone infection. After a single dose I end up in ER with a severe anaphalaxis reaction to sulfa antibiotic.

After that I began having more and more issues and was suddenly having allergic reactions to numerous things. The next year and a half was filled with multiple doctors and tests, being put on high dose steroids and numerous antihistamines. My health was not improving, I felt miserable and was not finding any answers. Finally, I went to yet another new doctor in the spring of 2011 and was diagnosed with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) and a rare chronic blood cancer from a gene mutation that causes me to have high blood histamine which contributes to my MCS.

Prior to November 2009, I was up at the crack of dawn and usually to bed after midnight. I was constantly on the go, busy with projects, working out at the gym, swimming, gardening, church activities and social life. My husband and a couple close friends called me the “Energizer Bunny” because I kept going and going. Suddenly my batteries were out of juice and my body was not functioning.

One of the areas I struggled with most was making plans and then often having to cancel when the time came, due to my health issues. I felt guilt for letting others down, disappointment in not being able to do whatever it was, frustration with myself and resentment toward my illness. As I sought ways to deal with this frustration I began telling myself and others that I am consistently inconsistent due to my health.

STEPS TO EMBRACE BEING CONSISTENTLY INCONSISTENT:

1. View chronic illness as part of God’s sovereign plan for my life

My husband was a great help as he would frequently remind me of God’s sovereignty over my chronic illness and that it was God’s plan for both of our lives for our ultimate good and His glory.  Digging into God’s Word  and learning about God’s character and how He uses trials to refine and mature us helped immensely.

2. Recognize my limits and adjust expectations and schedules accordingly.(This step may need refined frequently with the ebb and flow of symptoms.)

This took me a good couple years of pushing until I hit a wall and then laid up for days or weeks afterwards before I learned. We began to see patterns and realized after exposures to fragrances and chemicals exposures being out and about on the weekend and going to church I was wiped out and needed Monday to be a crash day. Now I schedule Mondays as rest days where I sleep as late as my body requires and recoup. I often will need to sleep in late another morning in the week usually Thursdays or Fridays. I also learned I need buffer days between scheduled events as the exposures often will knock me down a day or so. For me, on a real busy day, where  I am cleaning house or prepping for a company dinner I need to take time every hour or so to just sit/rest a few minutes. By doing that, I find I do not wear out as quickly. Figure out the unique limitations for your chronic illness and how best to adjust your expectations and schedules.

3. Realize I have no reason to feel guilt or shame if too sick and need to cancel.

This was hard for me as I tend to be a “people pleaser” and struggle with fear of man. I now tell people as we make plans, I will be there if at all possible but due to my health issues I am consistently inconsistent. If I cancel last minute, it is not you or my finding something better to do, but that I am truly too sick.

4. Decide to choose the better over the good.

Because I am limited by exposures to fragrances, cleaners and other chemicals, I want to make my time when away from home to count for eternity. For me this means doing things to relate with people and serve others. To accomplish this, I must limit my times of exposures doing other things. I do much of my shopping online and at a couple local health food stores I can go to without reactions. My husband is always willing to pick things up for me which is a huge blessing. If I have to have a day of appointments and errands, I try to schedule it all in one day so only have one time of recovery. I am finally getting past my pride and wearing my carbon filtered mask into most stores. If an event is planned for Saturday, it will usually mean I will be down for the count and unable to attend church on Sunday. I then need to evaluate which will have the most impact on eternity and the people we love.

5. Ask God for new ministries that flex with good and bad days.

God has crossed my paths with several people with chronic illnesses in my own church, through blogs and in Facebook groups. God has given me opportunities to pray for these folks, send encouraging messages or texts or call them. And I am blessed by theirs. I also am part of our church prayer ministry and get prayer requests as they are shared via email.

We host a fragrance free life group in our home that my husband leads every week. Occasionally I am too wiped or ill to attend and stay upstairs or we have someone else host. We also enjoy to host some meals for friends as my health allows or take meals to new moms or when somebody moves into a new home. I don’t do it every time and schedule it on a day with buffers around it and have my husband deliver it to prevent exposures. Right now I am in a worse season of reactions so have not hosted or attended anything in over two weeks and that is okay.

I am currently taking a Biblical counseling course that is a home study but later on will involve observing counseling then being observed by a counseling pastor as I counsel. I have had many delays on getting this began let alone being done, so once again realize the timing is in God’s hands and it’s okay to be consistently inconsistent.

Michael and Margaret Robble are a couple in our church who have written a book on how God has met them through over 25 years of chronic illness. Their book is called “Always Sick, Always Loved.” I highly recommend this book! They are now in the process of writing a second book.

We met Texans, Michael  and Christy Hardy, through the Robbles. This sweet couple minister through a website and blog to encourage the chronically ill called Chronic Encouragement. We were blessed by them and their encouragement while staying in our home when they were visiting in the area. Michael has MCS like I do and also has difficulties staying in hotels. http://chronicencouragement.com/

6. Find mutual support.

God has blessed me with some wonderful godly friends in my church here in Colorado and in Arizona that have walked the road of chronic illness many more years than me, as well as others who are newbies on the journey. Between these local friends and others online, we are able to understand with empathy and compassion and encourage one another and point each other to godly truth. It has also been helpful in finding medical help and resources.

7. I am not my illness.

I am, above all else, a child of God. I am also a wife, mother, Nana, sister, daughter and friend that happens to have a chronic illness. While it may make challenges and life unpredictable, I am not my disease. I seek how best to fulfill each of my roles around and in spite of my illness. God has allowed my illness to transform me more fully into the image of His Son. He still has the same desires to see me grow in grace and bear spiritual fruit of love, joy, peace…

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

I would love to hear from others and how you have learned to deal with living a consistently inconsistent life with chronic illness.

Love & Prayers,

Deb