Living for Jesus While Living with a Chronic Illness

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. “

Paul wrote about having a thorn in his flesh and asking the Lord to remove it in 2 Corinthians 12 and God’s response was that his grace was sufficient for him. There has been much speculation regarding what the thorn in Paul’s flesh was, but I won’t get into that in this post. My focus is on God’s grace being sufficient.

Anyone living with a chronic illness understands what it is like to want a cure, to be healed. Thankfully with modern medicine chronic conditions can be managed or helped somewhat, but not cured. There is no cure for many chronic illnesses.

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I know what it is like to live with pain and being grateful for the days with less pain. I know what it is like to live with fatigue the kind that; as wonderful as it is. coffee does not take away.

Paul wrote something else while living with his chronic condition in Philippians 3:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me”

Pressing on is not easy but so worth it. By pressing on with Jesus, we experience so many joys along the way such as seeing lives change, seeing people come to know Jesus, seeing God at work.

Pressing on while living with a chronic illness and depending on God for daily, sometimes hourly, strength is something I respect in others due to experiencing it myself.

One of my fellow bloggers has a rare genetic condition called
Friedreich’s Ataxia which causes her to need a wheelchair. However, she presses on to serve Jesus. Her name is Lily. You can read about her story in strength is not always literal. Her blog is retrospectivelily.com.

As my theme song for this week after Easter, Because He Lives, says, “Because he lives I can face tomorrow” Anyone living with a chronic illness who lives to serve Jesus like Lily does has a perspective that will encourage us to press on.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

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Doctor- ‘You are now a healthy man’ Reaction-‘What Do I Do Now?”

It was in April 1996 that I heard these words from my doctor, “Matt, you are now a healthy man. It’s a miracle you didn’t die.”

So the natural first reaction is:

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Jump for Joy, right?

Well I did celebrate at first. Who wouldn’t after going through what I went through from 1993 to that day in April 1996. The tests, the doctors appointments, the symptoms, the complete changing of my life would all be behind me.

But then another thought hit me, “Oh No!!!! What do I do now?”

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I had a similar reaction to the character Stella Abbott had in the new show Life Sentence. She had cancer for eight years and then she found out she was cured after getting married thinking it would only be for six months or so until she died. She had the “Oh No!!! Now what do I do” reaction.

I didn’t have cancer. It was autoimmune issue number 2 for me. First it was asthma. The second? Nothing serious unless it is not diagnosed until it is too late (in my case it almost was) my thyroid stopped working. By the time they found it, I was about to go into heart, liver, and kidney failure. I had lost memory. I had left the school where I was studying for the ministry in April 1994. When I came back to my home city, I thought it was to die because of the decline I was experiencing. I was working part-time delivering pizza just to scratch out almost survival living. I had left everything behind and then came those words, “Matt you are now a healthy man.”

An illness can be an intrusive interruption of life. When we are sick for a prolonged period of time, no matter what the illness is, and then hear we will be okay, yes there is a relief, but there is also the rebuilding of one’s life to start on. For me it meant transferring to a school in a city one hour away, continuing to work, and trusting God to make sense of it all for me as I started to pick up the pieces with his help.

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I was literally trusting in the truth of what is written in Romans 8:28:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

There were the one hour drives to class, four hours of being in class, and one hour drives back home. There were different tries of new jobs. It was through my first three trips to Romania that God led me to teach ESL, but that is a story for another day.

I thank God for the people he put in my life during that time. One such friend passed away a few years ago and is with the Lord now. Joel and his wife Marlys were a huge blessing. One day my car broke down as I was driving to my class. I called Joel hoping to get a ride back to my city. He came and towed my car back to my city. There were others God put in my life too, but if I list them all the post will be way too long.

Here is the ‘plot twist’ so to speak in the story of my life. I am not happy I went through those years; one year getting sick, two years being sick, one year recovering, two more years to finish my education, but I am grateful for what those years did for me. Going through suffering, the doubt, and regrouping not knowing how it would work out, has given me a lot of empathy for my refugee and immigrant friends God has called me to help. I hope to be as good of a friend to them as Joel and Marlys were to me.

If you are experiencing an “Oh no” moment, hang on because God has a hold of you.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Soap Opera Like Story Reveals That God Sees Us

Think soap operas or other TV dramas have bizarre plots? Consider some found in the bible.

Imagine the plight of a woman who is pregnant by her employer having to leave her home out of fear for herself and her unborn child because of being mistreated by her employer’s wife whose idea it was in the first place for her husband to make the woman become pregnant. Sounds like a soap opera or telenovela, but it actually happened and involved people we admire in the bible.

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Abraham and Sarah were not able to have a child and grew tired of waiting for God to fulfill his promise of a son, so Sarah came up with the idea of Abraham sleeping with Sarah’s servant Hagar. Hagar got pregnant, but instead of being grateful, Sarah became jealous and mistreated her. To make matters worse, Abraham consented to letting Sarah treat Hagar however she wished. Really sounds like a soap opera now.

It is recorded in Genesis 16.

Hagar ran away, but God came to her through the Angel of the Lord and promised to greatly increase her descendants. In response, Hagar called God, El Roi– The God who sees. It is the only time in the bible this title is used. It was used in a time of desperation for a pregnant woman. God saw her.

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Yes God said some unflattering things about her soon to be born son such as he would be a wild donkey of a man always fighting, but that is my focus here.

The point of this post is that God sees us. When we are mistreated by others, God sees us. If we struggle with chronic illness, depression, anxiety, family drama, or any difficult circumstance, God see us.

Do you have struggles? God Sees You.

God See Us.  🙂

We are never overlooked, God sees us.

 

 

 

 

Music Mondays- Need You Now by Plumb

“How many times have you heard me cry out
“God please take this”?
How many times have you given me strength to
Just keep breathing?
Oh I need you
God, I need you now.”

I love the lyrics to the chorus for Need You Now by Plumb. Life isn’t always easy and in fact can be a struggle for many reasons. These lyrics describe how I have felt at times looking to God in the midst of a difficult time.

For me the past several years it has been about going to doctors in search of answers and relief. It has also been about seeking to serve Jesus by sharing his love at times wondering how I was going to make it.

Jesus promised something in John 16:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Notice before the promise he makes to us, he says- “In this world you will have trouble.” Coming to faith in Jesus and following him is not a wave of a magic wand and all troubles disappear. We continue to have troubles. The difference is the encouragement and promise Jesus made.

He said to take heart because he has overcome the world. That is the reason we can take heart in any situation-Jesus is greater than any situation.

So when, not if, we have struggles such as illness, financial, family, loss, whatever problem, he is greater than our problem and he has promised to always be with us in Matthew 28:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We will have times that we can only cry out to ask God to please take something off our shoulders, but we need to trust him about whether is is best to lift it off our shoulders or to give us the strength to continue with the burden. It is the reality of living for Jesus in this life.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

When You Look Back and See God at Work Through It All

I had one of those moments of clarity as the Rheumatologist went over all of my tests and x-rays with me. He asked me if I ever had a neck injury and it sparked my memory back to when I was 19 years old and on a hay rack ride with a college group from the church I was going to at the time.

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We hit a bump hard and I fell off the bale of hay onto to gravel road hitting the back of my head. It knocked me out for a few seconds. I got up and shook it off. I did not get checked out because I figured I was okay.

As that memory sparked, I also realized how God had spared me that night.

It could have been much more serious. God spared me for some reason just as he has so many times in my life. He has a purpose for me and until that purpose is finished, I will be here in this life. It makes me think of Ephesians 2:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

God has had a plan for me since before I was born for me to reach out and show his love to people from all over the world. Every experience I have had, has led me to who I am now and what I am doing now. The health battles, growing up with an alcoholic father and mentally ill mother, the desert times in my life trying to seek God’s will, EVERYTHING led me to who I am now and my ministry. The truth of Romans 8 has been so evident in my life:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

God takes all of our experiences and works them together for the good. Whether it be the ultimate good of being in heaven with Jesus for all of eternity or for the good in this life, God works it all together.

So dear reader, I write this as I am in the early stages of getting treated for my latest diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, have had help with depression and anxiety, have found out I have Celiacs, and have been through a major health crisis that I was close to dying from. I am sharing in hopes it encourages you that whatever you are going through, God can work it out. There is hope especially eternal hope with Jesus.

Have you ever looked back at your life and seen moments God worked in your life?

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

Chronic Illness- How I Start My Days and Spotlight on a New Blogger

Living with chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Celiacs necessitates a certain amount of taking care of myself. There is an abundant amount of information available to learn about coping and managing life with chronic conditions. However, for me, the first place to start each day is to spend time with God.

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A simple yet profound bible verse grabbed my attention years ago in Luke 5:

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”

That is in the middle of a chapter about miracles Jesus did. The image I have from that chapter is of Jesus healing people everywhere he went and yet Jesus felt the need for alone time with our God our Father.

Living with chronic conditions or with any issues whether they are depression, anxiety, past abuse, family problems, or just life in general, it is comforting to know that God wants us to come to him. He wants us to spend time with him.

I loved the way a new blogger I follow, Britt @ Still Need Grace,  wrote about our need for prayer in her post Self Care Life Hack. It is a good post to read, and I want to spotlight her blog and post today. 🙂

Living with a chronic condition means there are times I have no energy. It means I understand I have limitations that I ignored for many years. I would just push through it. Yes, there are things I need to do to take care of myself such as being vigilant about what I eat, taking medication, getting rest, and sometimes saying no to doing things.

But the number one thing for me is to start my morning with time with God in prayer and listening to worship music. I have mornings that I literally start by telling Jesus, “I have no energy. Please love people through me and carry me through this day.”

My thinking on this is simple, If Jesus felt the need to have alone time with God our Father, how much more do I need to.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

What Symbol Defines Me?

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This is a symbol for Fibromyalgia. It is my most recent diagnosis. It explains some things for such as why I am always fatigued and always have pain among other things. But the symbol and Fibromyalgia don’t define who I am.

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This is a Celiacs Disease symbol. I was diagnosed with Celiacs Disease in 2017. That explained some things for me too. The diagnosis changed how I eat, but the symbol and Celiacs don’t define who I am.

There are other symbols I could share that don’t define me such as depression, and son of an alcoholic and all that entails. There are labels people could try to use but they don’t define me.

There are titles I have that describe what I do such as teacher and home missionary, but they do not define me completely.

There is a symbol that defines me. It is the cross of Jesus.

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It is because of the cross of Jesus that there is a title that defines me. I am a child of God. I do not deserve to be called a child of God, but that is one of the gifts God gave me through the cross of Jesus. In John 1 we read:

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

Anyone who receives Jesus, God gives them the right to become a child a God. That defines me for all eternity.

So while I do have things in my life such as Fibromyalgia, Celiacs Disease, depression etc, they are not who I am and they do not define me. God is our creator, so he is the one who defines who we are and he says I am his child. That defines who I am.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

 

Music Mondays- Exhale by Plumb

I love the lyrics that begin Exhale by Plumb:

“It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here”

The opening lyrics remind me of what Jesus said in Matthew 11:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Jesus invites all people to come to him and he promises to give us rest. He promises healing for our souls.

Plumb goes on to sing about the love to be found in God’s arms and the healing he brings to our lives. I love how she sings about breathe in God’s love and exhale.

For anyone who struggles with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, family problems, effects of being abused, chronic illness that can also affect us mentally and emotionally, the message of this song is powerfully wonderful.

As someone who has been dealing with Fibromyalgia along with a few other chronic issues, I know first hand how draining it can be mentally and emotionally to live with a chronic condition there is no cure for. I am so thankful to experience the presence of Jesus in my life. I can’t imagine life without him.

The arms of Jesus are a safe place. He will not mistreat us. He will bring healing into our lives. He has all power to bring healing into our lives but he is gentle.

I hope this song blesses you as much as or more than it blessed me. Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Jesus Our One Constant and Spotlight on a New Blogger.

Going through the winding road of doctors and hoping to get a diagnosis can be a bit draining. After receiving a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, it is like so what else will come along. It seems a bit like pile on with other issues I have of Celiacs etc. I will also be monitoring with my doctor for ANA tests in case of something else.

Yesterday due to not sleeping well because of symptoms, I wanted one thing on a rainy day- sleep. 🙂

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Yesterday as it was raining, I also thought it was the last thing we need in a state devastated by flooding.

Whatever happens in life through the ups and downs and twists and turns, there is one thing I can always count on or I should say one person I can always count on- Jesus. Jesus never changes. He is the one constant in life that we can always count on. Hebrews 13 states it clearly:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

I loved what one blogger I follow wrote the other day. It seems fitting to share that with you. Dawn has a blog Drawing Closer to Christ. She wrote a post He Is Still God. No matter what happens in this life, God is always still God and that is something we can always count on and draw comfort from.

So today I will teach my morning class, meet with a friend from Vietnam, go to physical therapy, go to my college downtown to finish paperwork to end the quarter, and teach my final evening class for this quarter. I will go through the day focusing on how God is still God and that Jesus never changes. It is better to focus on Jesus than it is to focus on problems. 🙂

An added bonus is that it will be sunny and warmer today and the next few days.  So appropriate for the first calendar day of SPRING. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Pinball Patient?

This might be dating myself. I remember how fun it was to play pinball and watch the pinball bounce around the machine with all of the features lighting up and the sounds being made as the pinball bounced off things.

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Yesterday afternoon when a colleague at my school asked me how my doctor’s appointment went, I said, “I am a pinball patient.” She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face.

Bouncing from doctor to doctor in 2017, 7 in total, just to find out I have Celiacs Disease left me with the desire to not go through it all again. Yesterday morning the specialist told me I probably have one thing but should have another test and see a different specialist to rule out two other possibilities. Pinball Patient time 🙂

Sometimes we just need to have a sense of humor 🙂

It is at times like this that I am so grateful that God never changes. As James wrote in James 1:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows”

Whatever the situation is that we face in this life, changing jobs, family issues, health issues, or any kind of uncertainty about the future, God has not changed and he has not moved. He is still with us just as Jesus promised in Matthew 28:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

So time to chill out and relax a bit today. Time to enjoy a weekend of meeting with friends from Brazil, Iran, and Vietnam. Time to focus on my ministry. The other things can wait a few weeks. Time to enjoy some sunny days which are rare this time of year. 🙂

Thank you for reading. God Bless.