Three Ways I Live with Chronic Illness

I was wondering how faith helps others to deal with chronic disease. My counselor recently shared a letter with me from an older woman who has dealt with health issues all her life. While very encouraging, I realized many of my things that helped me are different than hers. My top three are:

1. Practicing gratitude. Gratitude gets my eyes off me and onto blessings I receive even in the midst of the hardest days. Gratefulness helps me recognize God’s fingerprints in my life and produces joy not based on my circumstances. This blog post below shares how God gave me a vivid real life illustration of the difference of gratitude and joy vs bitterness, resentment and anger.

https://joyfulrefuge.com/2017/03/23/the-choice/

2. Embrace my chronic illness as ordained by God for both my eternal good and His glory. As I submit to God’s plan in my life, my character and faith have transformed so much since my health tanked. Knowing God allows what makes us grow the most like Christ to conform me to be more and more like him enables me to try to see life from an eternal perspective and see His hand at work rather than be bitter or constantly asking “why me?” (Roman’s 8:28-29) Embracing it as His plan also helps enable me to accept my disease and embrace the new and ever changing normal. When diseases progress or symptoms change causing more loss, I grieve the losses and process it and eventually embrace what God has done. I still have bad days and am constantly trying to balance my doing with the needed rest and lack of energy of my body.

John Piper had an article on this with a quote that so struck a chord with me.

3. Word Saturated and prayer. If I am not regularly in the word and in prayer (communication) with God I will drift in my thinking and attitudes. I need to preach truth to myself constantly. With my past it is easy to go into old thought patterns of how worthless, unlovable and wrong I am and go into fear and/or panic attacks. Counseling has helped me immensely. One thing my counselor told me is my negative thoughts on self and fear and guilt have made big ruts in my thought processes and I need to make new paths of truth thinking. I have verses on spiral bound 3” x 5” cards that tell me who am in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-10, Colossians 3:12 etc) and ones to help me with fear (Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 26;3-4, Philippians 4: 6-8 and more). I have read a few times God knows we struggle with fear and that it is addressed 365 times in the Bible.

Adjusting and living with chronic illness is a daily even moment by moment process. Symptoms change, diseases progress but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I constantly fail but so grateful I can run back to my Daddy God’s arms and He always accepts me, forgives me and loves me.

What has God shown you to help you in your journey with health challenges or trials?

Grateful for His loving grace,

Deb

Keep my Soul Happy & Nourished

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.

George Muller

When I spend time on God’s word it changes my focus, builds my faith, gives hope, peace and joy based not on my circumstances but on Jesus Christ. God’s word give me a lens through which to view the world and all that is happening around me. If I just watch news and read social media my heart can easily be in fear and turmoil. But if I filter all around me through the lens of God’s word, I can in faith say “it is well with my soul. “

https://youtu.be/AHe_qmo3gX4

https://www.godtube.com/popular-hymns/it-is-well-with-my-soul/

Blessings,

Deb

Morning Motivation

Some days begin with my feeling more tired and in greater pain than when I went to bed. Pain has either completely stolen my sleep or made it broken or disrupted. Those are the days I need extra motivation to get up and going. If my schedule allows, and really in need of sleep will take two Benadryl and something for pain and try to sleep. But if, like today, when my closest Colorado friend’s son is getting married, I need to get going regardless of how I feel.

I am an extrovert and love to attend social events but I need to have down days planned on either side of an event. I needed to say no to a fun international potluck/fiesta I was invited to last night because have the wedding today that was much more important I attend. Making those hard decisions, yet encouraging my hubby to attend without me are part of the sacrifices required in my day to day life of chronic illness.

So how do I get going on a morning like today? First of all greet God before I get out of bed. Acknowledge to Him how I feel and my need for His strength to be made perfect in my weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) I also try to recount at least three things I am thankful for and express my gratitude to the Lord. Practicing gratitude gets my eyes off of me and on to my faithful, sovereign, good and wise God. My physical therapist gave me stretches I do in bed each morning that help. Today with extra pain from storm system that came through last night I am taking a soak in our tub with magnesium flakes in the water. Often while soaking I do some devotions or blog from my phone.

Today I awoke to an encouraging response to a previous blog post and it made me realize once again God has purpose in my pain and illness.

So as soak, I think of friends on here and social media who I have never met me face to face. There is a special bond and camaraderie among those who live with chronic illness and/or pain. We are the ones who grasp this life and truly understand the limitations that come with it. We are the ones who know the faith and grace it takes to count it all joy and live in gratitude regardless of our hard circumstances.

Knowing I have other brothers and sisters in similar situations motivates me to get up and live life with joy relying on God’s strength and grace. I want the world to see though I have health issues and pain that is not who I am.

I am a blessed, chosen before the world began, loved, adopted, redeemed and one that God lavishes on His grace. (Ephesians 1:3-10). I remember I am chosen, holy and beloved. (Colossians 3:12). As His beloved daughter, He has an eternal plan and a purpose for my life.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:11

Image from Bible Study Tools

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. – Psalm 138:8

Image from Verse of the Day

I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. – Psalm 57:2

Blessings,

Deb

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

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