Blessed with Fruit :)

First before my post, I want to share a picture for my friend at justbacon.home.blog I love her quirky sense of humor, so I want to dedicate this salad photo to her. 🙂

One of the blessings of teaching English Second Language is sometimes my students give me food they cooked from their culture. I love food from other cultures. When a student brings me food, I feel like God smiled down at me. 🙂

So this past Wednesday, a student left a food container at my desk. It was my student from Iraq. I thanked her in her language and looked forward to getting home. Sometimes she gives me kebab and sometimes she gives me dohlma. I love both.

When I picked up the container, it felt too heavy to be either of those. When I got home and opened it, I found FRUIT. She gave me some fruit.

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You might be thinking I was disappointed. But I wasn’t. I was encouraged. I had just prayed that day that I need some fruit. It has been a long difficult summer due to 2 classes being canceled. I haven’t been eating very healthy.

I have fruit to last me until Sunday. With it being soft fruit season, I have felt I was missing out.

It happened on the same day that started with me struggling with depression. Wednesday morning was a rough morning. Summer has been rough and Wednesday morning, I woke up feeling down. Chronic illness has that effect on me at times. I had physical pain, the summer has been hard financially, and I didn’t have the energy to do anything. I did turn on some worship music.

While I was listening to the worship music, the passage in the bible when God talks with Elijah the prophet saying- “What are you doing here Elijah” when Elijah was depressed. Then my stomach started to growl and I felt the Lord tell me- EAT.

The passage in 1 Kings 19 where the angel comes to Elijah came to mind:

“All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” ...

My stomach growled even more. I went to the kitchen, scary thought me in a kitchen, and microwaved some oatmeal. I ate and felt a little better.

That was when I said to God, “I wish I had some fruit.”

So when I came home and saw my student had given me fruit not a cooked meal, I realized God had just smiled down at me.

Now for some bacon salad 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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Decisions Decisions

DECISIONS

That word decisions can bring up varied responses. For me it depends on what the decision is about. One thing I have noticed as my experience living with chronic illness has progressed, some decisions are automatically done for me, some decisions are easy, and some are complicated.

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Because I have Celiacs Disease, when it comes to food, my decisions are simple. If it is gluten free, yes. If it is not gluten free, no.

A bit of an aside, but I tend to get in a routine when it comes to what I order at restaurants or buy at the store. I like to keep it simple, so when I go to one restaurant, for example, I always order the same thing- Bison Burger on a gluten free bun. 🙂

But also being a spoonie, having to think about energy level, some decisions mean taking into account how it will affect my energy level. It has been humbling when I pray to admit to Jesus that I am not the man I used to be and ask for strength.

A few years ago, I began to experience panic attacks. I didn’t know what was happening. Anxiety would hit full force and thoughts would battle in my mind. I found out that due to two of my chronic illnesses, Fibromyalgia and Celiacs, I also have depression/anxiety disorders. I got the help I needed and most days are back to normal. But when presented with a major decision, it is like hundreds of possibilities flood my mind. I am so thankful for prayer and meditation on the word and on Jesus to quiet my thoughts.

In a few weeks, I might be presented with a major decision. Yikes. But I will pray and seek the Lord. 🙂

When it comes to decisions involving serving the Lord and showing his love, it comes automatic. I gladly accept opportunities to share Jesus and his love.

The one decision that I made that I will never regret was the decision to dedicate my life to Jesus in July 1989. I was already a Christian. I believed in Jesus. But at that moment, I gave my life to serve Jesus. There have been ups and downs, twists and turns in the path, hardships and struggles. But they all led to my present life and ministry. Because of that decision, I can have moments like last Saturday evening visiting a Yazidi family for the first time and sharing with them about Jesus having been a refugee during his early earthly life.

For a fun ending to my post today, I am trying to decide which look is better concerning a beard. I will post pictures and you can comment 1, 2, 3 or 4for what you like. 🙂

Picture 1- No Beard

Picture 2- Short Beard

Picture 3- Full Beard

or #4- Short Beard most of the time but a Santa look for Christma

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Blessings In The Midst of a Fibro Flare

This week was rough with a flare up of my Fibromyalgia. Tuesday, Wednesday and yesterday were particularly rough days with pain and fatigue. But there were blessings especially Thursday evening.

Living with chronic illness presents me with a choice. I can choose to focus on the chronic illnesses I have or I can focus on Jesus. By focusing on Jesus, it holds off the darkness of depression that can accompany chronic illness. I love the passage in Hebrews 12 that says:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”.

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The last part- so that you will not grow weary and lose heart- means so much to me. If we lose heart, we can lose so much more. The pain that accompanies Fibromyalgia varies from day to day but it is ALWAYS there. That would make it easy to lose heart, but Jesus is also ALWAYS there for us.

By pushing through the flare up and not letting it keep me down, I experienced wonderful blessings yesterday evening. I went to the school where my morning Family Literacy class meets for open house. I was able to meet new prospective students and see current and former students. Just seeing them gave me a huge boost. Seeing my colleagues at the school was encouraging too. 🙂

This a photo of me in my classroom in early April. 😉

Wednesday evening it was seeing my students in my evening class. I love the energy of a classroom with students who want to learn English.

But the greatest blessing was Tuesday evening. During some time with the Lord, I felt his presence so deeply. As I prayed, it was one of those moments that he showed me many things. It reminded me of the passage in John 15:

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

Jesus lets us know his business. He show us things. What a blessing to have Jesus call us friend and let us know things.

The choice is ours as to what we focus on. My desire is to focus on Jesus even in the midst of a flare up.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Made A Way by Travis Greene

My little sister Sherita of plantingseedsingodsgrowinggarden.wordpress.com suggested I check out Travis Greene. I did and I love his song Made A Way.

With lyrics like:

You made a way
When our backs were against the wall
And it looked as if it was over
You made a way
And we’re standing here
Only because You made a way
You made a way

The song really spoke to me. So many times in my life it seemed that my back was against the wall, but God made a way. The reason I am standing here or should I say writing here is because God made a way for me.

As I look back over my life of more valleys than mountain tops, I can see how God has worked in my life.

When I was sick and dying, God made a way and I recovered.

When I struggle with chronic illness, God makes a way for me to carry on.

When I was in the valley of depression, God made a way.

When it seemed that there was no hope, God made a way.

As I write this, I am waiting for God to make a way for me. This song really spoke to me. I hope it blesses you as it did me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

MH Recognition?

What is MH recognition? The MH is for Mental Hero. What do I mean by that?

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As someone who has dealt with depression and anxiety caused by chronic illness, I understand what it is like to share with others about it because of the stigma that is sometimes attached to the words Mental Health or Mental Illness.

I will never forget watching the movie Brain on Fire based on a true story of a young woman with a rare autoimmune disease that affected her brain. Watching that movie helped me accept the fact that I needed help with depression and anxiety. They are symptoms of two of the chronic ‘physical’ illnesses i have.

The first steps of sharing with people were anxious moments for me. Because of the stigma-(sadly yes in some churches too)- I offered to resign my ministry because I started taking medication for depression/anxiety. I will always remember the relief I felt when I was told that no I would not resign because it is medical.

As I began to share in my blog about chronic illness and about depression and anxiety, I found acceptance and also encouragement.

Because I know the courage it takes to share about mental health, I want to recognize some mental heroes. They are bloggers who shared about mental health issues in their blogs.

justbacon.home.blog She shares about her life and OCD. I enjoy her quirky sense of humor. 🙂

rontamirnehr.com has a blog offering advice for dealing with mental health issues

Hannah of gracetobeimperfect.com shares how her faith helps her with Social Anxiety

Pao of beingpao.wordpress.com shares how her faith helps her with mental health

Ellie shares about her struggles in searchingforme.co.uk

The Dopamine Queen at dopaminequeen.com shares her experience with bipolar and also helpful insights

thebiploarwritercollaborative,blog is a group of writers who share their experiences with mental health issues

I wanted to share these bloggers with you and also want to thank them for being willing to share about mental health. The more we know about and understand mental health, the less stigma there will be.

If we think about it logically, the brain is a physical part of our bodies. Why should there be stigma for mental health issues, which involve the brain, when there isn’t stigma for other physical illnesses.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

The Importance of Little Things in My Life

It happened again Monday evening that little nagging reminder that I forgot to do something. I forgot to take my Naproxen. I knew it as the back of my neck and shoulders were tensing up. Such is life with chronic illness. It is so important to maintain the little things.

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The same is true for my walk with Jesus. The little things need to be maintained starting with my prayer time in the morning. If I don’t take time with Jesus in the morning, my mood can become like that tension I had in the back of my neck and shoulders Monday evening.

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Part of having Fibromyalgia is sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. One day last week, I woke up late and didn’t take time to pray and be in the presence of the Lord. I went to a coffee shop and the sounds irritated me. I left the coffee shop not being my usual cheerful self. I have noticed if I take time with Jesus in the morning, the light and sounds don’t bother as much. That is more a coping with it thing than it not actually being noticeable.

The longer I follow Jesus, the more I see the importance of the little things such as prayer, listening to worship music, time with friends. reading my bible, and worship at church.

Time with friends and worship at church can at times be a challenge due to the aforementioned issues related to Fibromyalgia. But it is necessary to be with others and fellowship. I can have down time afterwards.

Living with Celiacs means being careful what I eat. I have learned to read labels very carefully. If I take in gluten, the first thing I notice is depression and anxiety and then the pain and rashes. If I take in only gluten free food, I am okay. The same is true for what I let into my mind as it relates to my walk with Jesus.

The little things add up either for positive or for negative. It all depends on which little things I seek each day.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Weekend to Decompress

Sometimes God gives me a weekend to just be refreshed. They are weekends of being able to relax and enjoy time with friends. They are weekends to decompress from the concerns of ministry and life with chronic illness. This past weekend was one of those times.

Saturday evening I enjoyed time with friends from various countries, a young couple from Brazil, a young couple from Mexico, and a young couple of an American husband and wife from Venezuela. All six of them are young professionals. We shared stories about travel and shared a lot of laughter. We ate Arepas a food from Venezuela. The mother of the young woman from Venezuela is visiting and she made the Arepas for us. They were so delicious.

Sunday afternoon my Life Group from church had lunch at a member’s home in the country. Again it was a time of laughter as we shared stories. The food was typical of an American gathering, burgers, beans, salads. I even got some homemade ice cream. 🙂

It was a blessing to unwind with friends and share laughter. Refreshed and ready to go 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Music Mondays- Rescue by Lauren Daigle

You are not hidden
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten
You are not hopeless
Though you have been broken
Your innocence stolen

I hear you whisper underneath your breath
I hear your SOS, your SOS

I will send out an army to find you
In the middle of the darkest night
It’s true,

I will rescue you

When I first heard Rescue by Lauren Daigle, so may thoughts flooded in my mind. I related to the song in so many ways.

As the son of an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother, the lyric-“Your innocence stolen” spoke to me. For those of us who have experienced abuse of any kind, our innocence is stolen from us.

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As someone who lives with chronic illness and depression, the lyric-“Though you have been broken” speak to me. Anyone who struggles with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health issue understand feeling hopeless. Anyone who live with chronic illness certainly understands feeling broken.

I love the lyric- “I hear you whisper underneath your breath. I hear you SOS.” I will never forget the times I could barely whisper a prayer and how Jesus came to me.

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I love this song because the focus is not on being broken and staying broken. The focus is on how Jesus will come to us. He will do whatever needs to be done to reach us. He will come to us. He will send his angels. He will rescue us.

Think about it. If Jesus loved us so much that he left heaven to come die for us, certainly he will pursue us to rescue us. 🙂

Why Love Compels Me

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died”

That passage in 2 Corinthians 5 expresses much to me about why it is important to me to share Christ’s love with refugees and anyone who has suffered in life.

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But there is a backstory to it all that I rarely share.

I occasionally listen to a song from the 1990s Runaway Train by Soul Asylum. It was originally not only a hit single but also used to raise awareness about the plight of runaway youth in the U.S.

The song still resonates with me. I was one of those youth for about a year. I was the son of an alcoholic father and a mother who had mental illness. I never knew a moment of feeling safe when I was a child. My response to it all was to explode in anger one day as a teen which led to me leaving the house. I stayed with a friend’s family and crashed on couches of other friends. At times I slept on a park bench,

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Never knowing peace as a child and teen, as a young man I only cared about making money until one day I ran into the presence of Jesus. His presence was so powerful and full of love that I gave my life to him in July 1989.

Experiencing illness to the point of losing memory and losing everything in my life led me to not knowing what would happen next. God led me step by step.

Having been rescued from darkness by Jesus, my hope is to participate with Jesus to rescue others from darkness.

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When Jesus led me to reach out to refugees, I understood how they feel. I knew how it felt to not feel safe and to wonder what would happen next. That is the experience of refugees. They flee because they are not safe and they wonder what will happen next.

When I experienced the love of Jesus, it compelled me to share his love with others. As 1st John 4 says:

“We love because he first loved us”

Knowing what it is like to be forgiven of so much, to be received despite my cold heart, causes me to desire for others to experience the depths of God’s love.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Sings Over Us?

I have found music to be a wonderful source of encouragement over the years. Worship songs are my favorite ones to listen to. There have been times over the years that a song has been in my spirit which let me know something was about to happen such as the time I had the song Life Goes On the morning my father passed away. I woke up with that song in my spirit and knew why.

This past week it happened again a few times. However, is was a different experience. It is something that has been happening the past few years as chronic illness has gotten worse and after I finally admitted to having depression as a result of chronic illness.

Friday brought with it a Fibro flare. This time it was extreme fatigue. I woke up at 7:30 but had zero energy. I couldn’t even go make breakfast. I drank some coffee, but still could snap out of it. I went back to sleep. As I went back to sleep, the song Oceans by Hillsong was in my spirit. The song stayed with me all morning when I would try to wake up but couldn’t. I finally got up at 1pm still tired., but the song was in my spirit even as I watched movies.

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Wednesday it was a different song as depression was a struggle. Summer seemed hopeful at the beginning, but two of my classes were canceled. That is something I never experienced before. It was getting me down, but the song Look Up Child by Lauren Daigle was in my spirit so strongly. It seemed as if Jesus was letting me know not to give in to depression.

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These kind of experiences remind me of a passage from the bible in Zephaniah 3:

“The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Jesus rejoices over us with singing. The context of the passage is about how God will end the oppression his people were under. Living with chronic illness can at times feel like living under an oppressive master. Depression can also feel oppressive. Jesus loves us and sings over us. He came to bring us life, to breathe life into our souls and spirits.

I usually share music videos on Mondays for my Music Mondays series, but today I want to share the videos of the two songs the Lord has brought to my spirit in down times this week. My hope is they bless someone else who is struggling.

If you ever experience having a song in your spirit that is about Jesus, respond to it. Even the faintest prayer will get his attention. We are never alone. Jesus is always with us.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.