Do not fear the Heat

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."  (Jeremiah 17:7,8)

It's been a long time since I've posted on my blog. Maybe part of me keeps hoping this "season" will pass and one full of happiness and laughter will replace what has seemed like a very long season of mourning myself and grieving alongside friends who have tasted more of the bitter than the sweet this life has to offer.

Well, it's August 20th, which means a new school year for my kids (can't believe I have a kindergartener), a new semester at the University of Arizona with Cru reaching students with the gospel, a new chapter as our staff team has changed and my husband is now our director, and a new but familiar opportunity for me to trust in the Lord.

James 1:2 "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." 

1 Peter 1:6 " In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith--more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire--may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 

One thing I have become keenly aware of over the past two years is that trials (of various kinds) are a guarantee for those who profess their faith in Christ. I have met so many godly people who suffer from chronic illness, many who have lost babies, children, siblings, and dear friends who have struggled with depression or anxiety.

What is so amazing about the gospel is that in the midst of horrendously painful earthly circumstances Jesus meets us and gives us hope. He offers us hope that this life is not the end. The pain we experience here on earth, be it short or long, be it physical or emotional....this is temporary (even when it feels like it will never end). I think in all of our hearts there is a chord that is struck that causes us to say "this isn't right, this isn't fair, why is life so hard." I agree. The gospel is good news because Jesus conquered death on the cross when he rose again. He paid the price for my sin, he literally took my penalty upon himself so that I could be set free from what I could never pay. The greatest gift in this life will never be health, wealth, beauty, it will never be fame or marriage or family. The greatest gift is that of which Jesus has already done. I don't have to work for it, or prove I deserve it (because I don't), I just have to accept it. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me."

I love that God is faithful even when I am not.  He never changes, even when my emotions or circumstances cause me to doubt or drift away. He is steady when life is not.  And this brings me to how the Lord continues to ask me to trust Him.

Do not fear when heat comes. For me the heat for the past few years has been my health (among other things I've mentioned in past posts). I won't get into all the details here, but I've felt like something isn't right. Nobody has been able to give me answers, leading me to think maybe it's just normal to feel fatigued and deal with the other symptoms. I've had moments of hope (diagnosed with H. Pylori and finished treatment; eating strictly to rid myself of Candida), but every time the symptoms come back.

Last week the new doctor I've been seeing went over more blood work that he ran, and this is the easiest way to sum up my 1 1/2 hour appointment to review the results: Autoimmune Disorder. Crohn's Disease. Scleroderma. 

These are the words that now seem to hang over my head. These are the categories that seem to make sense of what I've known is wrong, but couldn't figure out. This isn't an exact diagnosis yet, and so now I enter a time of waiting.

Do not be anxious in the year of drought. I suppose that waiting feels like a drought. Now I know that my blood work is saying something is wrong. There is some relief knowing that this isn't normal and my symptoms are real. But now I wait. I have appointments set up with specialists for further testing to see if we can get an accurate diagnosis, but these appointments take time and so I won't get in until the middle of November to the Rheumatologist.

Manna from Heaven please?!

While I am waiting for these other appointments, I need to get the inflammation that I've been feeling for years (and is now medically proven to be true) down so that my gut can heal and my body will start absorbing nutrients again. So, I have a 90 day strict diet I am supposed to adhere to (I will start in the beginning of September b/c I need time to figure out how I am going to do this).

For 90 days I am to stick to a strict diet that permanently eliminates the foods I am allergic to (Rice and Rye) and for the 90 days eliminates any foods my blood work has shown I am more sensitive to, which includes the following: Almond, Banana, Pinto Bean, Milk, Garlic, Ginger, Onions, Oregano, Peanut, Black Pepper, White Potato, Avocado, Sesame Seed, Wheat, green beans, kidney beans, eggs.

During these 90 days I also need to be careful with foods I am mildly sensitive to. I can eat these, but need to make sure it's not more than once every 3 days: Apple, Artichoke, Broccoli, Brussels Sprout, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Celery, Blue Cheese, Chili Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Chocolate, Crab, Grape, Grapefruit, Lemon, Mustard, Orange, Green Pea, Peach, Pear, Green Bell Pepper, Pineapple, Plum, Pork, Sage, Salmon, Soybean, Sole, Strawberry, Cane Sugar, Tea, Tomato, Watermelon, Bakers Yeast, Zucchini.

To add another punch to this plan, I need to try to keep my insulin even throughout the day, so any foods I am eating need to be lower on the glycemic index. If I can get the inflammation down that will help with the healing, no matter what diagnosis I eventually receive.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord." One thing the Lord continues to teach me is that when He calls me to something (be it Staff life with Cru or down this path of Medical Illness) I can trust Him. He goes before me, he provides grace when I need it (yes please, right now!). I do not have to fear or be anxious. He loves me and cares for me.  He is good, even if there is no earthly cure. He is faithful. I pray that I will be healed. I pray that the aches and pains won't be a normal part of my life.  But I think more importantly I pray that no matter what, my faith will grow stronger as I trust Him.


The Lord is near to the brokenhearted...

Last night I was reading Psalm 34 and these three specific verses stood out to me:

1: I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

4-5: I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.  Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.

18: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. 

I last posted as I reflected on some of the sad/difficult things of 2010 and I had meant to get to a post about all of the things I am thankful for (and there is much), but the last month has continued to be one full of tears.  I have found myself in a place where my faith is being tested, a place where the burdens of this life seem too much to bear, and quite frankly at times I have felt the presence of darkness closing in on me.  

In the midst of some personal difficulties that have been emotionally exhausting, the normal wear & tear of trying to figure out being a mom and being in ministry, and just "life," I have experienced loss.  About 2 1/2 weeks ago my uncle passed away suddenly.  I have many fond memories from my childhood of him, even though I haven't seen him much in the last few years because of the distance between Iowa and Arizona.  My heart is burdened especially for my cousin (his only daughter) who is pregnant with her first child.

This morning I came back from work to read a few emails.  There were three main people who needed prayer, and before I even had time to pray I got the news that one had passed away.  Derek Hotsinpiller (for anyone reading from Bridgeport, WV) was shot this morning.  He was a U.S. Marshall out doing his job, when an individual opened fire.  I played soccer for a few years with his older brother Dustin, and his mother Pam has been a great influence on me for Christ.  I still remember watching Pam's faith as she walked through the sudden death of her husband 8 years ago, and I just can't believe she will now bury her young son.  

Today is one of those days that I think I have to choose to turn to Jesus and rely on his strength to get through, because even the normal details (like taking care of my kids and figuring out dinner) almost seem like too much.  My heart is just so sad and I'm not even one of these dear people on the very front-line of loss (like my cousin, Pam or Dustin).   

I know that God's Word does not change and His character does not either.  I know that I can depend on Him no matter what, but the past few months (this month in particular) have been really draining and I am becoming more aware of my "wandering heart" and how easily I can doubt.  Still, I am thankful that as my faith is tested, it is also growing stronger.  My dependence on God is also strengthening my awareness of His presence in my life.  


"Eternal Oughtness"

Instilled in us is a longing for the ideal world and perfect intimacy for which we were created. We sense that the evils of war and rape and death are alien to our existence. As Martin Luther King Jr. observed, we are confronted by an "eternal oughtness:" that the world is not as it ought to be, that unconditional love and perfect peace are forever elusive. (*"Backstory")

I've finally started to reflect on 2010, but even in the midst of so many blessings and much to be thankful for, my heart is burdened. This year has weighed heavy on my heart for so many reasons, and I think the biggest is the constant reminder of what a heartbreaking (sinful) world we live in.

Over the past few years I've started avoiding the news because most of the headliners have to do with things that make it nearly impossible for me to sleep at night. However, what I can't avoid is the deep pain that people close to me have experienced. I have seen first-hand the affects that adultery, divorce, depression, the loss of a child, the loss of parents and other family members/friends, disease, and hopelessness can do to the soul of a person.

I have seen tears, I have seen sleepless eyes, and I've seen hearts become calloused as a way to stop "feeling," because it seems like the only way to survive.

I have also seen hearts that might as well have knees and be bowing down in worship, except they aren't devoted to the One who is the Creator, but the things that are created (picture a golden calf that is worshipped as a god). There are many "good" things that we have in this life, but many of these New-Year's-Resolution-list-objects become our objects of affection and devotion (money, health, beauty, accomplishments, individuality, relationships, education). Soon our hobbies become the veins to our hearts, and we think that they are our source of life.

When I read the quote above it resonated with my heart because there have been many times this year I have thought, "Why? This isn't how it's supposed to be".  And in light of what has happened in Tucson this week, and the response of Westboro Baptist (which invokes in me the urge to throw up), I must remind myself of the following: "Look, your Savior is coming...In that day he will remove the cloud of gloom, the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.  He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears...The Lord has spoken!" (Isaiah 62:11; 25:7)

Though we all will experience pain (some more unimaginable than others), I am reminded of the HOPE we have in Jesus Christ. I am reminded that my heart too once turned away from God and was unfaithful to the Creator, but that through faith in Christ and what He has done on the cross (died as a ransom for MY sin, and then was resurrected as a sign that death has been conquered! Hallelujah!) I have been restored to the relationship I was created for.  

With sadness I reflect on this past year, but with joy I reflect on the peace I have in my heart and the future hope that "The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.

*"Backstory" is a small book we use in ministry to help explain the full picture of what God is doing and how our own lives intersect with the greater "Backstory" going on. 

I do have a rather large list of things for which I am thankful, for which I know I am undeserving but the Lord has graciously given, and I hope to share these highlights of 2010 in the coming week.