Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover that is what we have been told. Yet sometimes even once we have dived in and are reading there is a drastic change we would never expect in our wildest dreams. At times, we believe whole heartily that we trust a person and the individual is extremely different than reality. Perhaps the person put on a front and we never expect them to betray us when we needed them most. Other times something tragic happens and the person we cherished dearly pushes us away.

Most can recall a time something like this has happened out of the blue. Reason or no reason it is devastating and heart wrenching. On one hand we might like to go back to how things were on the other we might hunger for revenge. Emotions race through us consuming us and dictating our actions or attitude.

Healing from a loss of a friendship is not an easy road. Furthermore, it is a road traveled too often by those who have a chronic illness but that fact does not make it easier. Coping in a healthy way as we move forward is vital.

The truth can hurt. To be completely honest the only One who is completely unwavering is the Lord. He cannot betray us. He will never turn His back on His children. Moreover, His love for His children is too great to put into words. Regardless of what we do He is still there.

Those words of reassurance might bring some comfort at times but there may be times those words offer no comfort at all. To be honest that is perfectly okay. It is okay to not be okay and that our hearts have been shattered in this tragedy because that is not how God intended humans to interact. He intended us to live in community, encouraging one another, and challenging each other to grow closer to Him. However, we live in a fallen world with too much sin truthfully.

My heart breaks for you if you can relate to these words. I do not know when nor how but I promise it will be okay. By God’s grace you my sweet friend will overcome the heartbreak. God is close to the broken hearted, the rejected, and uninvited.  Run towards your loving Savior who will heal your broken heart.

Do not isolate yourself (though it may be tempted and I understand that). A reminder once more, the Lord created us for community just not everyone uplifts us the way they should. Those in our lives should encourage us to thrive and grow in Christ not be a source of stress.Call that person you can always count on for prayer.  During this valley of sorrow practice some self care. You have been though an emotional combat and must recover properly.

Lastly, be certain to pour your heart out to Jesus because He is always listening. Write out your prayers to Him. Rest assured He holds all your tears in a bottle. He understands the heartbreak and devastation. Pick up that devotional you have been meaning to read. Start that Christian book that is under a pile of junk on the counter. Listen to a pod cast or sermon. Take the time to begin studying that book of the Bible you have been meaning to. Join an online Bible study. Do anything to immerse yourself in His Word and His love. Guard your heart. You have victory in Jesus Christ over this.

 

 

Jehovah Jireh (God Our Provider),

We surrender to Your compassionate hand the individual who has deeply hurt us. Allow them to be redeemed by Your grace.

Our hearts have been shattered in ways we never imagined. Things will never be the same. Even though it hurts, Lord Jesus, we will praise You. We will always unending sing Your mighty praise. We are confident that You will heal our hearts. Confident that You will provide and deeply bless us beyond our dreams. Fill us up with You, Jesus. Drench us in Your love. Comfort us. May we grow closer to You.Allow this season of sorrow to bring honor and glory some how to Your precious name. We love You.

Amen

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What To Do When You Can’t Find Thankful…

Gratitude is not always second nature. There are days when it seems all hope is lost. One of those everything that could go wrong did go wrong type of a day and rock bottom turned out to be a few feet lower than you thought.

Finding God’s grace in struggles can be a challenge but it is possible. There are times you feel like you cannot find thankfulness. Regardless how devastating the struggle or if you are just drawing a blank there is always something to be thankful for.

There are many places you can look to count things to be thankful for. Go to your facebook news feed and rejoice with those who are rejoicing. Did someones daughter take their first step? Did someones son graduate high school? Thank God for the family and the blessing. Still in need of more ideas? Head to the Bible. Thank God for the miracles, the stories told, the lessons learned, who He is, and His promises.

Worship music is a nice way to shift our perspective from us, our thoughts, sorrows, ect to  a Godly and heavenly perspective. Additionally, sometimes in the search for gratitude one simply needs to remember to take care of themselves, eating right and sleeping. Listening to others encounters with Christ and stories of His goodness encourages gratitude within. Sometimes we need to take time out to tend to our weary souls.

What do you do when it feels nearly impossible to find something to be thankful for?

 

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“Know this: my God will also fill every need you have according to His glorious riches in Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King.” Philippians 4:19

Jehovah Jireh (God My Provider),

From the moment, I open my eyes at the break of day till the time the sunsets You provide. Daily, You provide me with food, clean water, shelter, clean air, and clothing. You surround me with lovely people whom I cherish. People who challenge me to grow closer to You, people who make me think, and people who support me. A wonderful church family. You have given me purpose each day air kisses my lungs.

Daily, You provide me with just enough to thrive. Enough strength, determination, compassion, love, and grace. You have provided the beauty of nature.

You have provided me with a thriving relationship with You. Blessed me with the Scriptures and the gift of prayer. You have blessed me way beyond my comprehension. You have blessed me in ways that I am unaware of. You have blessed me so greatly, yet so often I do not acknowledge the depth of all my blessings. You are my great provider. I will forever praise Your Holy name.

Amen

Pour Out Your Heart

It is never ending. The symptoms. The pain. The frustration, anxiety, and tears. The fatigue. The new diagnosis. Life dramatically changes when you learn you have a chronic illness. Things become devastating when you keep adding to that list.

It is bittersweet. One is thankful to know what is going on and that there is a logical explanation to the maddest within their body. Yet on the other hand, one may question, how can so many things be wrong with my body.

It becomes more challenging when no one offers a full treatment plan. A few medications may help, some, yet it is not nearly enough. The pain becomes so intense one questions if they are dying. More frustrating when someone cannot function and sees no way out. There is no independence. Living at your own risk.

Yes, positive thinking is an asset and it is fundamental. In contrast, shutting off all “negative” emotions will do no good. Sometimes we need to allow our selves to get frustrated, upset, admit it is too much, admit we are scared, anxious, or feeling hopeless in the moment.

For a very long time, I handled my chronic illnesses emotionally “too well” to some. I wasn’t scared or anxious or depressed. My doctor at the time felt I should be unstable and offered me anxiety or depression medications which I refused. I knew it was God’s grace which I would embrace until the season ended.

Now, three years later, I am more emotional and grieving my losses from chronic illness more. Not clinically depressed or anxious, just emotional more than I would like. It is a challenge for me, like many others, to allow myself to feel hopeless, anxious, or scared. I feel the need to be super woman. To handle everything perfectly according to an unrealistic worldly perspective. Feeling like I never measure up.

No where in the Bible does it say that a saved individual will handle every problem with no struggles or negative emotions and of course it doesn’t say we will handle it perfectly. Take a look at the Psalms to see how David shared his raw emotions with Christ. Christ meets us in the struggles. “For the Eternal will be a shelter for those who know misery,
 a refuge during troubling times. Those who know Your name will rely on You, for You, O Eternal One, have not abandoned those who search for You” Psalm 9:9-10. He holds us during the unbearable pain. He wants us to pour our hearts out to Him and to share the intense emotions. He encourages us to be transparent. He is okay with us saying that we feel it’s unfair, we are frustrated, angry, or scared.

Christ meets us where we are in the middle of the mess, the emotions, and pain. Psalms 34: 4- 5 says, “God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.  Look at him; give him your warmest smile. Never hide your feelings from him”(MSG). He holds us in His arms when life is too much to deal with. Endlessly He pours out grace in the tragedies. He wants us to trust Him in the difficulties. Gently, He will guide us and provide moment by moment.

Lord,

I lift Your name on high. Thank You for knowing me better than I know myself. For allowing me to be completely honest with You. You understand my sorrow, anxiety, and pain. You understand my thoughts and emotions better than I do. Help me to invite You into my pain and to pour my heart out to You without holding anything back. May I never hide anything from You. You are my refuge. I trust in You. Provide all I need. Help me to live life abundantly. Let each moment of my life bring honor, glory, and praise to Your name.

Amen

Grieving the Lasts and Embracing Illness Firsts

Karen Kingsbury’s tear jerking poem, Let Me Hold You a Little Longer describes a mother’s affection. The profound sadness laced with delight a mother endures as her precious baby grows up. A poem not only for Mama’s but for everyone. A reminder to us all to cherish simple daily moments to hold on to them a little longer, a little more dear to our hearts. As an individual with a chronic illness, I learn the lesson to embrace life’s precious moments sooner than my peers.

“Long ago you came to me,

a miracle of firsts:

First smiles and teeth and baby steps,

a sunbeam on the burst.

But one day you will move away

and leave to me your past,

And I will be left thinking of

a lifetime of your lasts . . .

The last time that I held a bottle

to your baby lips.

The last time that I lifted you

and held you on my hip.”

I cannot help but consider my Spoonie lasts overcome with anguish. I inquire if I understood those moments were my lasts if I would have done anything differently.

The last time I would breathe without excessive pain.

Fatigue wrapping me in chains.

The last time I walked without feeling dizzy.

The phone call or visit from that friend I cared for too much.

Heartbreak still in my clutch.

The last summer consumed with fun.

The last time the sun kissed my skin.

Life was just about to begin.

The last time I gazed in the mirror and saw me not the battle wounds of my illness.

Things on pause an awkward stillness.

Remembering each the lasts is more than heartbreaking. Though I would have preferred to know those were my lasts, I doubt much would have changed. Despite being so young I know in my heart  I appreciated those moments of laughter to their fullest. I loved those people who wandered out on me with all my heart and as deeply as I understood how.Entering the chronic illness world is challenging. Furthermore, those people are forced to conform to the restrictions. Adapting to the medical testing, questions, and daily activities.  Attempting to master the language. Recreating lifelong aspirations.

The first time a medical professional uttered the name of my illness

The first time I meet another who would support me

Laughing together, developing a friendship, providing encouragement as I wept a sea

The first time I did self-injections

Releasing perfection

Chronic illness is a complex journey. Oppression, delight, and countless lessons have a place.  One encounters grief, frustration, sorrow, and joy. Strength and courage are necessary daily. Those with chronic illness soon become legendary inspirations for the world. Each has their unique grief with their lasts. And unique illness firsts.

If you are newly diagnosed please know that you are not alone. While this is certainly a difficult road there is a lot of beauty and joy.  It is okay to grieve. But don’t forget to embrace the simple joys.

Good Friday

Good Friday is at the heart of Christianity, but we don’t talk about it nearly as much as we should. As a society we tend to be more excited for Christmas than for lent. We seem to look ahead to Easter Sunday, not taking the time to pause and be thankful. Jesus’s resurrection would have been impossible without the crucifixion.

It is important for us to reflect on the gift of the crucifixion asking God to open our eyes so that we may gain a deeper understanding. We cannot fully comprehend the pain Jesus endured for us or the love He has for us. He endured being whipped to the point the flesh was coming off of Him, carried an enormous cross for miles, nailed onto it, and than suffocated slowly. This horrific death brings wholeness and beauty into our lives. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice we have received much to be thankful for.

He has given us many gifts freely. Jesus lavishes grace, mercy, forgiveness, faithfulness, and love on His beloved children. Due to all He endured we have hope that sustains us in the hardest struggles of life, we are able to spend eternity with the Father.

Most of us are addicted to hurry. One task after another, reciting a to do list. Overwhelmed, sorrowful, and anxious because we were not created to operate this way. Regardless of what you are doing today I want to challenge You to take some simple steps as an act of thankfulness for all Christ has done for You and to grow closer to Him. Slowly read the crucifixion, no hurrying allowed. Take time to think about all Jesus endured. Than write out a few things from the crucifixion that you are thankful for. Lastly, write a prayer to draw closer to the Lord.

 

” They spat on Him and whipped Him on the head with His scepter ofreeds, and when they had their fill, they pulled off the bold scarlet cloak, dressed Him in His own simple clothes, and led Him off to be crucified.

As they were walking, they found a man called Simon of Cyrene and forced him to carry the cross. Eventually they came to a place called Golgotha, which means “Place of the Skull.”  There they gave Him a drink—wine mixed with bitter herbs. He tasted it but refused to drink it.

 And so they had Him crucified. They divided the clothes off His back by drawing lots,and they sat on the ground and watched Him hang They placed a sign over His head: “This is Jesus, King of the Jews.”  And then they crucified two thieves next to Him, one at His right hand and one at His left hand.

Passersby shouted curses and blasphemies at Jesus. They wagged their heads at Him and hissed.

Passersby:  You’re going to destroy the temple and then rebuild it in three days? Why don’t You start with saving Yourself? Come down from the cross if You can, if You’re God’s Son.

Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders (mocking Him): He saved others, but He can’t save Himself. If He’s really the King of Israel, then let Him climb down from the cross—then we’ll believe Him. He claimed communion with God—well, let God save Him, if He’s God’s beloved Son.

 Even the thieves hanging to His right and left poured insults upon Him.  And then, starting at noon, the entire land became dark. It was dark for three hours. In the middle of the dark afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice.

Jesus: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani—My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Bystanders:  He’s calling on Elijah.

 One bystander grabbed a sponge, steeped it in vinegar, stuck it on a reed, and gave Jesus the vinegar to drink.

Others:  We’ll see—we’ll see if Elijah is going to come and rescue Him.

And then Jesus cried out once more, loudly, and then He breathed His last breath. At that instant, the temple curtain was torn in half, from top to bottom. The earth shook; rocks split in two.” Matthew 27:30-51 The Voice Translation. 

 

Lord Jesus,

You are king above all kings. Wonderful and sovereign. I want to take time today to worship You and to thank You from the depths of my soul. I tend to rush through life and do not spend enough time with You. I don’t cherish Your Word as I should. I am undeserving of love and forgiveness yet You have chosen to lavish both on me. Thank You for all You have done for me so that I may spend eternity with You. I praise You for the blessings in my life. Give me a deeper understanding of all You have done for me. Let me crave time with You more. Cultivate a heart of thanksgiving in me. Let me love as You love.

Amen

Praise God for His Faithfulness

 

“How enduring is God’s loyal love; the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion. Here they are, every morning, new! Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Yahweh,

You are faithful even when I don’t feel You near. You are always with me. You are faithful even when my body or mind betrays me. When those I love reject me. You provide strength. Teaching me to be dependent on You. You are faithful, as the emotions run wild. Faithful even when the doctors fail. When isolation traps me. When my world is falling apart.

Lord Jesus, You are faithful in the smaller and bigger ways than I can imagine. Your faithfulness surpasses all understanding. Great and beautiful is Your unending faithfulness. You are my hope. Comfort. Provider.

Elohim God my creator knit my heart to Your. Guide me on the path You designed especially for you before air kissed my lungs. I am Depend fully on You. The storm will rage, but I have a secure and faithful anchor. Fear has no place. In You, I have sweet victory. Your faithfulness remains the same.

Amen

Introducing my invisible companion – pain

A sweet member of Chronically Hopeful, Angela, is sharing a beautiful post with us today. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time and spoons to be here with us today.

Bio from Angela,

I am a christian and lay-preacher. I worked in finance for 25 years but I am currently unemployed and looking for a new opportunity when my pain is managed effectively. I enjoy writing, public speaking, mentoring young people and spending time with family and friends.IMG-20170818-WA0004

 

When you meet someone for the first time, what do you think that they see or observe about you? Maybe the color of your eyes? Your radiant smile? Your height? Weight? Or whether or not you wear spectacles, walk with a cane or use a wheel chair? It is possible that a person may see and notice all of these outward features but for me, there is one thing that whilst all-encompassing to me, it is something that no one sees. I consider that it is significant but it is also invisible (at least to the untrained eye), and that is my pain!

Pain, caused initially by an injury and then by disease. Pain that wakes me up and often prevents me from sleeping. Pain that dictates my activities or lack of them. Pain that varies, but is my closest companion. I have never asked for its presence, but daily I am forced to contend with this intrusion, this reality, something that cannot be explained and that has a devastating effect on the quality of my life.

 

My “relationship” with pain, for want of a better word, began in the autumn of 1989 following a serious road traffic accident. For about six months I was unable to leave the house alone and needed help with every aspect of my life. Over the months that followed, my father and the physiotherapy team at my local hospital helped me to recover my strength thereby allowing me to return to work.

It was my dream to return to the relatively pain free life with the energy and freedom that many of my peers in their mid 20’s enjoyed. Sadly this was not to be and I had to find and accept a new and unwanted reality. Even though I was a Christian, this was still a challenge.

I was truly grateful for life, after all, how many people do you know that have been knocked over by a fire engine on call and have lived to share their testimony? I knew that I was blessed, but somehow at the back of my mind, there were some nagging questions: Why did this happen to me? Did I do something wrong? Suppose I had taken another route home or left work on time would things have been different?

 

As I battled with questions that I could not answer, I had further complications as I encountered a modern-day equivalent of Job’s comforters. People came to pray, give thanks, and to comfort me but sadly a few came to discover what “secret sins” I had committed that had led to this terrible accident.

Over the next few years as I grappled with the effects of widespread chronic pain, I found myself dealing with people who demonstrated a lack of understanding about chronic conditions and whether or not my pain was real or imagined. I asked God for healing, friends and family came for special prayer sessions, but when healing did not come, my faith was questioned.

 

What do you do when the promises of God don’t seem to apply to you or when you look around and hear stories of miraculous healings? When people question your desire to be healed, to be whole, to once again contribute to your church, your community, your family or even take care of yourself?

 

I didn’t have the answers or the strength to cope with them alongside the fatigue, nerve pain and all the challenges that both fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome, brought to my life.

 

Moving forward however, I try to encourage myself and others by what God shows me through His Word. No matter how hard it is, I still have HOPE! Why? Well after nearly 20 years in chronic pain, I had another life-changing accident, one that left me unable to work and crippled by excruciating pain. Yet in all of this time I have been able to eat, have a roof over my head and I have my basic needs met. Has it been easy? Absolutely not! I lost some things that were important to me but I held on to that all-important, life-saving ingredient, Hope! Here’s how the Apostle Paul describes it in Romans 5: 3-5 ESV:

“3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Hope as described here keeps us from being disappointed. Life is difficult for those who are suffering, but believing that a better day is coming, gives us hope. The Apostle Paul also has a disability, we are not told exactly what it is, but we know that he prayed three times for it to be removed.  When God chose not to, Paul accepted that God’s strength would be revealed in Paul’s weakness:

2 Corinthians 9: 7-10 Message

7-10 “Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, my grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

 

When I feel weak I go to God to receive strength from Him so that I am able to continue with the life that God has given me. I have lived with chronic pain for 28 years now and some days I am unhappy about the pain that I feel, that no one appears to understand and that no one sees. When my invisible companion tries to control my life, I try to reflect on better days and lift my heart to God who gives me hope.