Thursday, April 25, 2013

OUCH... it hurts!

I have been sick since January.  It started with the flu and turned into something else entirely.  Stomach pain, chest pains, reflux issues, etc…  I went to the ER not wanting to take any chances of sending my autoimmune disease into a flare-up.  Yes, I have an autoimmune disease.  It’s called Myasthenia Gravis and it causes extreme muscle weakness all over my body in it’s worst moments.  Currently it is moving into remission after seven years of struggling with it.  I have had many ups and downs with this thing.  Let’s just say my life has been unpredictable daily.  I have had to learn to go with the flow and become flexible which is NOT my personality at all.

My visit to the ER led to a trail of referrals to various doctors and multiple tests.  Each appointment or test was delayed by scheduling dragging this whole process out for four months. During this time my symptoms only got worse while the pain increased  (I have been sick for practically my entire semester at Ivy Tech).  Finally after all of this time, my last visit was with a surgeon who concluded that we needed to remove my gallbladder.
It’s finally gone!  I had my gallbladder removed and I am recovering.  I am still in pain, but it is a different kind of pain.  It’s a healing pain which means things will only get better.  The pain will lessen each day and hopefully eventually go away completely.  Yay!  I can’t wait.  Being in pain is very distracting to say the least.  Most people had no idea I was in pain.  Not that I hide it well, but I have a high pain tollerance.  I can do a lot of things by pushing through the pain, but when it comes to really focusing on something… it doesn’t work so well.

Pain is relative.  It affects everyone differently.  I have a high pain tolerance so I can take or withstand more pain than most for extended periods of time.  My husband and one of my sons however have lower pain limitations.  Our pain threshhold is the amount of tolerance we have to endure and push through unavoidable feelings of discomfort.
I have experienced many different kinds of pain in my lifetime as I am sure you have as well.  Pain transcends all barriers.  It has no boundaries.  It touches all genders, races, ages, and cultures.   It is a taste we all must experience. Pain can manifest itself in different forms in our lives.  Heartache from a broken relationship, a scratch on a knee from a fall, facing circumstances beyond our control, the death of a loved one, divorce, feelings of rejection, miscarriage, lost dreams, suffering from disease or sickness, feelings of failure, dealing with a dysfunctional family, the list could go on. No one is exempt from pain.  It touches us all.  It is how we choose to face that pain that makes all of the difference.

Recently I attended a womens’ retreat where I met an incredible woman who has faced a lot of pain in her lifetime. She married a man who has had his own share of pain.  Her story is amazing…. SO amazing I bought a book about her life.  It is called, “Call it Incredible” by Mark Nichols Sims.  This is what it shares about the book on the cover… The "incredible" true story of God's plan unfolding in the lives of two people who, though on opposite sides of the world, are brought together for a powerful purpose.  At the retreat she shared that a contract was just signed to make the book a movie by the same people who brought us Courageous, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants.  That is one movie I DO NOT want to miss.  Stories of real life people who press forward through their pain are inspiring.  They help us see that we are not alone and we can and will make it through to the other side if we keep pushing forward.

Pain is something we will all face at some point in our lives.  It is how we face that pain that determines the course of our future.  Pain can be a tool when laid in the hands of God used to shape our lives.  I remember when I was pregnant going to Lamaze classes with my husband.  They shared with us there various methods of how we could work through our pain. Inevitably we were all going to face it at some point so we needed to be ready.  Some would choose medicine to alleviate their pain; others would push through panting calmly a rehearsed process of pain control; while some would leave all their training behind and face it head on violently.  I am speaking of course in this instant of physical pain, but some of us face other types of pain the same way.

In dealing with my autoimmune disease and all of its countless symptoms as well as side-effects, I have learned various methods of coping that has helped me.  My main source of comfort has been giving it all to God.  I talk to him about my problems and He listens to me.  I have also held on to specific scriptures in the Bible that have encouraged me.  One of my favorites has been…

 “I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me strength.”  

Philippians 4:13 (NCV)

God gives me strength when I need it most to push forward.  He helps me endure no matter what pain I am facing; physical pain, emotional scars from past hurts, wounding present offenses, or overwhelming circumstances that weigh me down.  God has continued to be faithful to me no matter what.  Another coping method that has been helpful for me to manage the pain has been music.  The song below is one that I played over and over again for encouragement on my bad days.  I have included the lyrics for you to see, as well as a video I played once when sharing my story with a group of ladies.  The words of the song and the video are powerful!

by Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not,
This is not our home
It's not our home

'Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

 Click below here to watch the video I mentioned.  It will take you to an old blog post of mine with the video attached.  Enjoy!

We will all face some kind of pain in our lifetime.  It is how we choose to deal with that pain that makes all of the difference.  Don’t face your pain alone.  Enlist friends to come alongside of you to help you push through.  You are not alone.  Pain when placed in the hands of God can create something beautiful.  You are a work of art in the making.  Give God the paint brush and allow Him to work His wonders as He creates a masterpiece with YOU. 

Living to leave a legacy,

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Offended Much!

Have you ever said the wrong thing, did the wrong thing, or simply made choices that others disagreed with? My intentions are never to offend others, but it happens. Sometimes we can offend without even realizing it and other times it is obvious to everyone.

Have careless words or actions from others ever wounded your heart? Maybe it was words spoken by a spouse, friend, sibling, parent, or an authority figure. It seems like those closest to us can leave the deepest wounds in our hearts.

What did you do with that offense?  Did you stew over it, hold on to it for safe keeping, give the cold shoulder and avoid that person, or let it go?

Holding on to an offense, only hurts YOU in the end.  It will grow and fester like an infected wound. It will cause you to become a bitter, angry person who looks nothing like the person who first faced that offense in the beginning.

I read the short story “Barn Burning,” by William Faulkner, recently and it was eye-opening.  It is a perfect example of what happens when we allow offenses to grow and accumulate inside of our hearts.  The results can be catastrophic.  The father in this story, Abner consistently dragged his family from town to town.  His anger and violent actions towards his offenders caused trouble everywhere he went.  However, he wasn’t ever prosecuted for his actions because there was never enough evidence. Why would anyone want to put their family through such persecution and scrutiny from the people around them?  Their name became dirty and their reputation marred everywhere they went.  This is not the idea of the perfect family… that is for sure.

I have learned over the years that offended people, offend people.  A habitual offender is someone who continues to offend others over and over again.  This is offense full grown in someone’s heart.  Obviously somewhere along the way Abner got offended and allowed that offense to hang around and sink roots deep within his heart.  He may have been offended with the government, his country, authorities over him in the military, his parents, friends, etc… We don’t know who or what, but somewhere along the way, offense attached itself to his life and he was never the same.  Offense left inside unchecked changes people.

We need to guard our hearts from offense.  It can grow inside of us just like weeds in a garden. If left untended, things can get out of control inside and out.

We need to check our hearts daily!

Watch for warning signs of a sick or infected heart by offense.  Watch words, actions, and thoughts.  Be on high alert when you know you are offended or close to offense.

Choose the high road!

When you feel you might be offended, you have a choice.  Choose to give the benefit of the doubt or stew and become bitter. Instead of thinking of the worst possible scenario when it comes to others, choose to give grace.  Be known as a grace giver! Learn to let some things go, overlook others, and give grace whenever possible.  Forgive quickly and easily. 

Don’t allow any roots of bitterness, anger, or resentment to grow in your hearts.  It’s not worth risking the security of your heart, just forgive.  Forgiveness is a process and depending on the offense, it may take time.  Do what you can to keep your heart free from any offense.

Where are you when it comes to offense?  Is your heart sick?  Are you the offender or the offended?  Do you need to learn to give grace?  Guard your heart from offense… YOU are worth it!

Living to leave a legacy,

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Empty Spot

I recently read the book, “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald.  It was an interesting read.  I am pretty sure I read the book while in High school, but remembered nothing of it.  It felt kind of like a soap opera as I read it.  The Hollywood version should be interesting to see when it comes out, however not family friendly I am sure.       
One theme that ran through the whole book for me was the idea of the “empty spot.”  Each character was in search of something better… more money, more attention, more things, someone to love and adore them more, more, more, more.  Nobody seemed happy with what they had.  Life would be better “if only” they had this or that.  They were each trying to live out their fantasies of the perfect life.
Nick seemed to be the only stable character.  He hadn’t decided what he was in search for entirely.  He sought stability in his career while considering all of the other options to fill his void in life.  Watching everyone else pursue their dreams of grandeur helped him realize what was really important to him.  By the end of the story he had gained a new perspective. 

Jay Gatsby spent his whole life in pursuit of someone or something to fill that spot deep within… that spot that defined him.  Yet, even at the end of his life he was still left with a void.  All of them sought something… Daisy wanted security, riches, and true love.  Tom wanted status, accolades, and to be adored by a woman.  His wife wasn’t enough for him, his heart longed for another.  Myrtle, his mistress, loved the opportunities money brought… extravagant things, security, reputation, status, and the hopes of a better life. 

Each character attempted to fill their “empty spot” in some fashion.  It may surprise you to hear this, but I think our lives mirror these characters in a sense.  We may not be having affairs, seek fame or fortune, or even have questionable business dealings, but we do have an “empty spot” deep inside of us that longs to be filled.  We may be attempting to fill it with a variety of things to no avail.

Have you ever seen the little kids shape game where you match various shapes and then the pieces fall inside of the circle?  We have that game where I work so I see it all the time.  One time I watched my son, when he was little play this game in frustration. He seemed to think that whatever shape he chose should fit inside the space no matter what.  He would shove, push, bang, and smash to try to make his shape fit with no luck.  All he ended up doing was getting more upset while he still held the piece in his hand.  Sometimes we do the same thing when it comes to our “empty spot.”  We try to get anything and everything to fit to fill it, but nothing works and we end up feeling emptier in the end.

 When I was seventeen years old, I realized that there was only one thing that could fit inside the empty spot in my heart and that was God.  The hole inside of me was “God Shaped.”  Nothing else could fill it, I tried and it all left me empty.  God made all the difference!  It was obvious to me in the way I felt inside and out.  The day I asked Him to come into my life, all the empty spots of my heart were filled and I have never been the same. 
The storms of life can challenge our faith and sometimes even uproot it if we allow it.  Storms can be devastating.  Life can be challenging at times and circumstances can sometimes feel overwhelming.  It is only when we are grounded and rooted deep in God that we can withstand anything that comes our way.

The Great Gatsby was a great reminder to me that no matter what storms blow into my life, I need to remember to stay rooted in God.  When we begin to focus on our circumstances and what we “don’t have,” it’s easy to allow that emptiness to fill our hearts again.  God is my “empty spot” filler and I don’t ever want to forget it.

If you are in search of something or someone to fill your “empty spot,” I hope you will consider my “empty spot” filler.  He won’t disappoint.

Living to leave a legacy,