Changing Things Up … AGAIN

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Beloved, I am beyond tired these days. It is more a bone-deep weariness, and feels like I’m treading mud. 

I’ve written before about the chronic pain illnesses I live with daily—Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), and daily migraines. The pain that goes along with these wears me out very easily. Summer is my worst season because of the effects of our monsoon weather, and heat also exacerbates my symptoms.

Earlier this summer I thought that sharing blog posts from other authors would be a good way for me to cut down on my computer and internet time during this season, but in fact, it has made things worse. Maybe that’s because I’ve been posting something everyday, but I receive so many great devotionals by email and enjoy sharing them with you. That still translates into more time spent working on my blog.

I thought that I was on the right track because I was doing the work of the Lord but He has been nudging me for several weeks about this. Yesterday I finally got it.

I have been so focused on the work of the Lord that I’ve neglected the Lord of the work.

In my typical overly-ambitious way, I believed that the more I shared about God and how He enables us to live with joy, faith and hope, the more I was doing what He has planned for me right now. But that is apparently not His plan at all—whether that means just for now, or for the unforeseeable future.

My sweet hubby, Rick, has been cautioning me to cut down on my computer and writing time, but I always assured him that I was following the Lord’s leading. I should have listened more closely to Rick’s counsel. He knows me best and completely understands my limitations, and he is the head of our household and my spiritual leader. Why do I so often have to learn things the hard way?

So here’s the deal. For an unknown period of time, I need to go back to posting only three times per week: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. I have already scheduled posts for tomorrow and this coming Monday and Tuesday, but after that I’ll begin the Tuesday-Thursday-Sunday schedule. Please bear with me because for probably a month most of those posts will be reblogs of some of my earlier posts.

Beloved, thank you for your understanding. I covet your prayers.

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The closer His embrace

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He has chosen not to heal me,
but to hold me.
The more intense the pain,
the closer His embrace.
-Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing:
Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering,
Pain, and God’s Sovereignty

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Monsoon Storms = Pain + Exhaustion

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Well, it’s that time of the year again up here in northern Arizona. Monsoon weather is hitting me hard as usual. The storm systems that build up each day combined with the fluctuating barometric pressure cause horrible migraines with nausea. My body is constantly fighting these pain and nausea attacks and that leaves me with a bone-deep exhaustion that no amount of sleep seems to relieve. This means I need to cut back on all my activities, so I’ll be mostly sharing blog posts from others, plus the wonderful devotionals from my sweet friend Pat Knight. These take me much less time, which helps me conserve energy.

Beloved, I’m not sure how long this siege will last, so please bear with me. I covet your prayers. As always, I will be praying for all of you.

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love;
give preference to one another in honor;
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit,
serving the Lord;
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation,
devoted to prayer,
contributing to the needs of the saints,
practicing hospitality.
—Romans 12:9-13

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Raining Blessings

This is another devotional from Streams in the DesertIt made my eyes leak. 

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God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.
—Genesis 41:52

A poet stands by the window watching a summer shower. It is a fierce downpour, beating and pounding the earth. But the poet, in his mind’s eye, sees more than a rain shower falling. He sees a myriad of lovely flowers raining down, soon breaking forth from the freshly watered earth, and filling it with their matchless beauty and fragrance. And so he sings:

It isn’t raining again to me —it’s raining daffodils;
In every dripping drop I see wildflowers upon the hills.
A cloud of gray engulfs the day, and overwhelms the town;
It isn’t raining rain to me—it’s raining roses down.

Perhaps you are undergoing some trial as God’s child, and you are saying to Him, “O God, it is raining very hard on me tonight, and this test seems beyond my power to endure. Disappointments are pouring in, washing away and utterly defeating my chosen plans. My trembling heart is grieved and is cowering at the intensity of my suffering. Surely the rains of affliction are beating down upon my soul.”

Dear friend, you are completely mistaken. God is not raining rain on you—He is raining blessings. If you will only believe your Father’s Word, you will realize that springing up beneath the pounding rain are spiritual flowers. And they are more beautiful and fragrant than those that ever grew before in your stormless and suffering-free life.

You can see the rain, but can you also see the flowers? You are suffering through these tests, but know that God sees sweet flowers of faith springing up in your life beneath these very trials. You try to escape the pain, yet God sees tender compassion for other sufferers finding birth in your soul. Your heart winces at the pain of heavy grief, but God sees the sorrow deepening and enriching your life.

No, my friend, it is not raining afflictions on you. It is raining tenderness, love, compassion, patience, and a thousand other flowers and fruits of the blessed Holy Spirit. And they are bringing to your life spiritual enrichment that all the prosperity and ease of this world could ever produce in your innermost being.  —J.M.M

Songs across the Storm

A harp stood in the calm, still air,
Where showers of sunshine washed a thousand fragrant blooms;

A traveler bowed with loads of care
Struggled from morning till the dusk of evening glooms
To strum sweet sounds from the songless strings;

The pilgrim strives in vain with each unanswering chord,
Until the tempest’s thunder sings,
And, moving on the storm, the fingers of the Lord
A wondrous melody awakes;

And though the battling winds their soldier deeds perform,
Their trumpet-sound brave music makes

While God’s assuring voice sings love across the storm.

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Adjusting to Serious Illness

This is an excellent article from CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help. It is not easy to live with chronic illness, whether you’re the patient, the caregiver, friend or family member. Included in this article are ten practical ways that patients and their families can use to make their households and relationships work better.

Adjusting to Serious Illness:
Strategies for Patients and Their Families

By Bruce Campbell

CFS and fibromyalgia force profound adjustments, both for patients and for those around them. Household tasks are juggled, finances are often strained, and all family members wonder what the future will bring. What strategies will help you and your family adjust if you are struggling with the disruptions created by CFS or FM?

Understanding Your Unique Situation

The foundation of an effective response is understanding your unique situation. Every family’s circumstances are different. Just as each patient must individualize his or her self-management strategy, families need to develop a response to CFS or FM that fits their individual circumstances.

The scope of adjustments will be dictated by the seriousness of the patient’s health problems. CFS and fibromyalgia vary greatly in severity. The average person in our self-help program reports that she functions at about 25% of normal, but there are sizeable numbers who are housebound, while others are less affected and continue to work part time or full time. The severity of medical issues will set the limits on the amount of adjustment required.

The family’s financial situation is also crucial. Some families can afford to let the ill person stop working or have her take an early retirement, while others are stretched financially and may be forced to make financial adjustments of various kinds. The presence or absence of children and, if present, their ages is significant. Couples with school-age children have to juggle work and child care. Those with adult children may get help from their kids. The health of the spouse is another important factor. In some families, both spouses are ill or a normally-healthy spouse has a health emergency like a heart attack or surgery.

A final factor is the strength of the bond between the partners. Some marriages are made stronger by illness, while others become frayed and still others break. The response of the well spouse to illness may vary from strong support, on the one hand, to disbelief, abuse and abandonment on the other. Some people in our groups, who have had multiple marriages report that they have experienced the full range of possible responses, most commonly a lack of support in an initial relationship and understanding in a later one.

Ten Strategies

Here are ten ideas for how families can adapt to CFS or FM.

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Read the rest here

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God’s Presence in Pain

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Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.
—Paul Purvis, 
First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL

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Being Thankful for What We Do NOT Have

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Rejoice always;
praying without ceasing;
in everything give thanks;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.
—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Lately I’ve been pondering the concept of thankfulness. Often when I thank God for all the blessings in my life, I have also thanked Him for what He has not given me or allowed in my life. Have you ever prayed like this?

Okaaay, I can hear most of you saying. The rest are thinking, wait … what? are you serious?

Yes, I am very serious. I thank God for things I don’t have, that He has not allowed in my life. I’m not just talking about more serious illnesses than those I live with every day or cataclysmic events such as tornadoes and hurricanes. I’m referring to things like more money, maybe more (and more stylish) clothes or a bigger house. How about straight hair instead of the naturally curly mop I was born with? Or writing talent so spectacular that publishers come after me instead of the other way around?

It seems to me that the more we want, well… the more we want, like some vicious cycle. Contentment with what we have now is admittedly difficult because human nature always yearns for more. And yet, I’m wondering if allowing ourselves to feel this kind of contentment will result in that inner peace that is so illusive.

And isn’t that something to be utterly thankful for?

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Peace, mercy and love be yours in abundance. —Jude 1:2

Peace. Mercy. Love. These are what can be ours in abundance. And from personal experience, reminding myself that I have these things usually leads to my feeling happy and contented with what I have in the here and now.

Beloved, how about you? Have you learned to be thankful for certain things you do not have?

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God Knows What You’re Going Through

If you’ve ever thought that God is not aware of your pains and frustrations, your fear or crying during sleepless nights, please take the time to read Franklin Graham’s account of what occurred during his recent trip to Myanmar. 

Franklin Graham:
Whatever You Are Going Through—
God Knows

Dear Friend,

A few weeks ago I traveled to Myanmar, a nation once known as Burma. We’ll be holding a Crusade there at the end of next year, and I met with pastors and members of the Crusade committee. This is a country that has been under military dictatorship for the last 50 years or so, and churches have been under severe restrictions.

Things are beginning to change now, and we are thankful that churches are gaining some freedom. People are hopeful. As you can imagine, there is a lot of planning and groundwork that needs to be done far in advance of the Crusade, and we would appreciate your prayers. This is the first time the churches in this area have cooperated for an evangelistic effort like this, and we are asking God to work in a mighty way.

Myanmar is a Buddhist country, and it has one of the most famous Buddhist temples in the world, the Shwedagon (or Golden) Pagoda. Thousands upon thousands of people go there to pray to the lifeless statues of Buddha. As I witnessed this in person, I thought of the story in the book of Daniel where King Belshazzar and the people “praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone.” Almighty God responded with handwriting on the wall, and Daniel was called to interpret the writing. He delivered God’s judgment upon King Belshazzar for worshiping gods “which do not see or hear or know” (Daniel 5:23, NKJV) and for failing to honor the God who gave them breath.

Read more here.

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I Wonder – Followup

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Last week I was looking back at some of my first posts, back in 2011. My second post was titled “I Wonder…” When I read it again, I was struck by how much has happened and yet stayed the same since then. Hmm… isn’t that considered a paradox?

This is what I wrote then.

Lately I’ve been wondering about the deeper meaning of life. I mean, what if this is all there is?

I read this earlier today:

“If I see God in everything, He will calm and color everything I see! Perhaps the circumstances causing my sorrows will not be removed and my situation will remain the same, but if Christ is brought into my grief and gloom as my Lord and Master, He will “surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).”

Now, I have to start by saying that I do try to see God in everything, but I’m not really sure about that “calm and color everything I see” stuff. When I live with yet another migraine (and this current one has lasted almost all week), hear about helpless hurting children, view photos depicting yet another flood or earthquake, read about another tax hike-pay cut-employee cutback-home foreclosure, or simply stand by the side of a close friend struggling just to make ends meet, I ask myself again: what is life really all about? Are we simply here to suffer through life’s challenges and then die? Or is there something more?

We all have a yearning to know the reasons behind our circumstances—that desire to justify the bad things that happen to us. If we seek to do what is right, help others who are in need, and are very careful to not hurt anyone or anything, why must we still suffer?

I don’t have the answers, although I know Who does. Stay tuned…

Fast forward 4 years to where I now am physically.

Every day is a new adventure in pain. I still live with several chronic pain illnesses: Fibromyalgia (FMS), Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), and chronic migraines. CFIDS is also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Some people with FMS or CFS/CFIDS/ME get better over time. Others get worse, and I’m in this group. Add to this that my migraines now assault me daily. We live at a 5500 foot elevation, and my doctor told me once that she believes my body never has adjusted to living in a high elevation area, even though we’ve been here for almost eleven years.

Every prescription medication I’ve tried for any of these illnesses has either not worked for me or caused huge side effects. Alternative therapies such as acupressure, acupuncture, biofeedback, chiropractic or massage only work as long as it takes to administer the therapy. Several years ago I used to work out several times a week, until I realized that exercising through my pain was causing even worse migraines.

Does this get me down? My feelings try to make me feel frustrated and helpless about all of this. But read on to find out the one Reason I can grab hold of those feelings before they take over.

This leads to what’s going on now with me spiritually.

I am more convinced than ever that God is with me every single day. My true hope is in Jesus Christ and this is what carries me through each day. On days like today when I’m going through yet another FMS/CFS flare and everything I do causes even more pain, migraines and nausea, I struggle with all of this.

Not the why of it, because I know everything in my life is part of God’s plan for me. It’s the persistence … the everydayness of it … that is wearying. 

These days, my life is a very delicate balance. I need to weigh everything. If I want to do something as simple as the laundry, I need to allow for rest time before as well as afterward. And most times there is payback after the activity even if I have rested well beforehand. It is very frustrating.

In spite of all that, there persists in me a joyful hope that never fails to uplift my heart. I know without a doubt that God is always with me throughout all of it. And if anyone can truly understand my pain, it is Jesus. He not only understands it, He holds me close in His arms and comforts me when I am in pain and feel discouraged. He is my God of hope. He helps me cling to that hope, which turns my frustration and weariness into joy and peace.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy
and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:13

Beloved, please remember that if we completely place our trust in God, He will fill us with hope, joy and peace. The more we trust in Him, the more He supplies all the hope, joy and peace we need every single day.

Hope in God is saying “no” to fear or discouragement, and by so doing, saying “yes” to something that will satisfy much more down the line. Wait on God, believing that what God has planned is so much better that what we grab for ourselves! —Joni Eareckson Tada

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At “Wits’ End Corner”

I’ve had my paperback version of Streams in the Desert devotional for years. It is probably my favorite devotional book. As you can see, I have read it so many times that I need two heavy-duty rubber bands to hold it together. It’s difficult to see, but the photo on the left shows the blue one that holds a big section of pages together. The pink one keeps the binding from slipping off.

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I received an iPad as a 2013 Christmas gift from my children, so I now have an extensive Kindle library on it, including a digital version of this book. And of course, I’m reading it again this year. When I read the May 23rd devotional, this poem leaped out at me as if I’d never seen it before. My eyes leaked as I read it, and I’m guessing yours will too. 

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Christian, with troubled brow?
Are you thinking of what is before you,
And all you are bearing now?
Does all the world seem against you,
And you in the battle alone?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is just where God’s power is shown.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner,”
Blinded with wearying pain,
Feeling you cannot endure it,
You cannot bear the strain,
Bruised through the constant suffering,
Dizzy, and dazed, and numb?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is where Jesus loves to come.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Your work before you spread,
All lying begun, unfinished,
And pressing on heart and head,
Longing for strength to do it,
Stretching out trembling hands?
Remember—at “Wits’ End Corner”
The Burden-Bearer stands.

Are you standing at “Wits’ End Corner”?
Then you’re just in the very spot
To learn the wondrous resources
Of Him who fails you not: 
No doubt to a brighter pathway
Your footsteps will soon be moved,
But only at “Wits’ End Corner”
Is the “God who is able” proved.
-Antoinette Wilson

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