Go and Be With My People

My health status is in a day-to-day flux. Yesterday was good. I woke up with energy to make my family breakfast. I felt well enough to go out to lunch with my husband. Throw in a couple of loads of laundry, and it was a good day.

Today? Today is different. My alarm went off in time to get ready for church. “I am teaching Sunday school tomorrow morning,” I declared to my family the night before. “Let’s set our alarms so we make sure we are there early so I can get ready for my class.” Laying my plans out there without doubt of the day to come.

Sunday morning came, my alarm sounded. My energy low. Fatigue high. The battle in my mind began. Do I stay home? Do I go and not teach Sunday school? Do I go and try to teach? The kids are 4 and 5 years old and full of energy. The lesson will include games and projects requiring a fully engaged and healthy leader. God…is that me today? Can I really do this today?

I feel the pull….Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am so tired…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, they are preschoolers…

Go and be with my people.

But, God, I am having difficulty standing up today.

Go and be with my people.

But, God…

Go and be with my people.

Walking into church, I am greeted by a warm, familiar face who knows my physical and emotional battle. She knows because just days prior she was in the women’s group at church where each woman courageously shared a current struggle they are facing. Not the usual, “Hi, I am Lisa, I have gone to church here for 11 years. I have a husband, 2 kids and 2 cats…” No, none of that surface level stuff. No, more like, “I am Lisa. I have struggled with anxiety, am currently struggling with depression and am in the process of testing for a kidney transplant.” How’s that for real? Woman after woman shared hard things. Woman after woman cried. Woman after woman opened up their hearts. And, woman after woman loved on the one next to them. Go and be with my people.

After the hug and encouragement from the saint who greeted me, I headed up the stairs to my classroom. My 13-year-old daughter, also my teaching assistant, rushed up the stairs to see what she could do to help in the classroom. Scanning the lesson, she determined which parts of the lesson she would lead. Choosing the parts which require action and preparation, she relieved my concerns. Go and be with my people.

Then come the kids. One by one, they entered the classroom, each flashing me a smile, some offering a hug as well. The delightful energy and happy chatter spread to my soul. One by one they took off their shoes and became comfortable in our little classroom. I watched the kids build with blocks. I laughed at the funny greetings they gave each other. I marveled at how tall they were becoming. Go and be with my people.

Time to sit down in our circle for prayer and the Bible lesson. “First of all, I need to tell you guys, I am just not feeling well this morning,” I share with the 4 and 5 year olds. A couple sets of concerned eyes met mine.

One little one in particular looked up at me in a very solemn way, “Teacher, can I pray for you?” Others joined in, “Yes, I want to pray for my teacher, too.”

One by one, they offer their prayers of thanksgiving and their requests. I hear, “Thank you, God for my teacher. Please help her feel better today. Please heal her, God. Thank you for healing my teacher, God. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

My eyes are dripping now. My heart is bursting out of my chest. These humble, faith-filled prayers are the culmination of what my heart needed this morning. Go and be with my people. 

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I am aware that some of you reading this have not had this experience at church with God’s people. I share this to encourage you to keep searching. There are so many churches. But, also, you will not find this type of fellowship unless you take the risk yourself to open up and allow God’s people in…to know you, to encourage you, to love you. Go and be with God’s people.

 

When Your Burden is a Boulder

A few years back I was one week away from having a scheduled kidney transplant. Leading up to the surgery, there were times when I would tremble with fear. I worried about the pain in recovery. I worried about the medication I would be on for life after the transplant. I worried about my body rejecting the kidney. But, what caused me to break out into an all out panic attack was thinking about how would I ever manage all of my responsibilities during recovery.

In Galatians, Paul talks about carrying our own load but also sharing in one another’s burdens.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  For each one shall bear his own load.

I don’t know about you, but it’s the whole part about allowing someone else to help bear my burden, carry my load, and share in my pain, that causes fear to set in.

But, as I lean into Jesus and experience more and more of His grace and compassion I see that He is to be trusted. Ultimately it is He who carries my burden. It is He who sees just how big my burden is even when I try to minimize it. It is Jesus who holds the burden and the solution in His all-powerful hands.

My burden…my failiing kidneys, my children’s unique needs, my husband’s health, the lies the enemy feeds me…it all compounds into a boulder too large for my shoulders.

When I find myself thinking I am something, I think I can and should bear it all. I should be able to pick up all the wounded pieces, place them neatly in my pack, and hoist them onto my back. It’s a lie from the pit of hell that I am alone and that I should be able to hold my heavy load myself.

Oh, Satan loves that lie. If he can get me to fall for it, he’s got me. He’s got me in an impossible situation trying in vain to hold up my pack, setting myself up for failure and a heavier burden.

But, Jesus….Jesus who knows pain. Jesus who knows betrayal. Jesus who knows loneliness. Jesus who knows love. Jesus who knows me. He knows the boulder I am facing. He knows what I am capable of carrying. He knows my needs.

But, Jesus…

the Boulder Taker

the Boulder Lifter

the Boulder Mover.

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What a peace it brings to my burdened soul, coming back to the reality that I am nothing. I am unable to bear this boulder. The Lord has not even asked me to bear it alone.

Thank you, Jesus. Those words seem insufficient. I have been known to utter the words, “Thank you, Jesus” about finding a good parking spot on a rainy day. But, to say “Thank you, Jesus, for carrying a boulder I am too weak and ill-equipped to carry myself” seems trite. So, I will spend my life uttering the words, “Thank you, Jesus. You are so good to me.”

 

 

 

Suffering Obedience and Freedom

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Have you ever waited all week for results to come back to tell you whether or not you have cancer again? The doctor who removed the troublesome skin humbly admitted that she had never been in that position.
I’ve never once walked into a week hoping for suffering, hoping to have to wait on more lab results. Never once.
Jesus didn’t hope for suffering. He didn’t delight in the great agony He faced as he awaited probable pain and death. He cried out to God. He asked to be delivered. He asked if there was any other way.
But then He chose obedience. Perfect obedience which led to suffering. Suffering which led to freedom.
As I walk this road of suffering, complete with twists and turns which seem to lead away from what I desire, I am being trained in obedience. My ways are being stripped away. My flesh pierced. My mind and will transformed.
This week the transformation came in allowing Jesus to partner with me. The enemy loves to tell me I am alone. He loves to feed me lies about no one else understanding my pain. And, I seem to have a sick way of clinging to those lies.
But my suffering is bringing about transformation, when I obey. When I listen to that prompting to stop the Facebook scrolling and instead read the Word, I read the promises of Jesus. I read about His faithful love for me. I read about His pain and suffering. I read about the anguish He expressed during His most intense trial.

I read about freedom. Freedom the believers received as they opened their hearts to His Spirit and were then released from past bondage.

Just as Jesus didn’t desire the suffering that was coming to Him, I do not desire more suffering. But nowadays, I can walk into it with much less fear and much more peace, knowing suffering, coupled with obedience, always results in freedom. Thank you, Jesus!

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. Romans 5:3-5

Walking with Jesus Through Suffering

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Studying Hebrews this morning, thinking about the significance and greatness of Jesus. Jesus, greater than the angels. Jesus, worthy of my praise. Jesus, the one who sympathizes with my weakness.

My mind flashes to the ache in my foot where the doctor skillfully and so carefully used the scalpel to remove the worrisome skin. My foot, pierced. My flesh, wounded. My blood, exposed.

I walk with the reminder of my suffering. Each step sends an ache through my pierced foot.

My Jesus takes each painful step with me. Tempted, tried, suffered. His own feet pierced through. His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced through allowing the blood to drain out.

My Jesus, pierced.

His pain, His suffering, His sacrifice, so that I can read the words, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” and know that He walks with me in all of my suffering.

I walk with confidence in His love for me. I walk with confidence in His purpose for my pain. I walk with confidence in knowing that I do not walk alone.

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What I Learned in September

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Sept Path

Here we are wrapping up September. This is year 3 of homeschooling for our family and it’s been the smoothest transition thus far. I attribute it to several things. One being that we continued some schoolwork all summer, but never missed anything fun that came up. Two being that it’s year 3 and in my experience year 3 is like a magic year. When I was a public school teacher, I found that year 3 of teaching the same grade level or same curriculum really finally came together for me. And, three, many of the changes we have made to handling discipline in our family, have brought about greater peace for us all. Amen to all of the above!

My Reading this Past Month

  • Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio
  • When Parenting Isn’t Perfect by Jim Daly
  • Hinds’ Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (I try to read this once a year!)

Our Reading this Past Month

  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • What to do When It’s Not Fair by Jacqueline Toner
  • What to do When Mistakes Make You Quake by Jacqueline Toner
  • Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer

Back to school 2017

1-2-3 Magic (123 Magic)

A very wise counselor shared with me the idea of utilizing the 1-2-3 Magic approach for stopping negative behaviors in my children. Think of any lower level behavior you want to stop: arguing, whining, badgering, and complaining, etc. There are many short youtube videos you can watch to learn more about this approach.

Here is how we are using it and finding it successful in our family:

First I set up the plan with the kids. I explained to the kids that we have been allowing behaviors such as arguing and complaining to ruin perfectly good days for us. We want to deal with the behaviors in a quicker way so that we can get back toward whatever God has called us to for that day. I told them that if they argue (complain, whine, badger), I will say, “That’s 1” and hold up 1 finger. They have a choice to make. Stop or continue. If they continue, I will say, “That’s 2” and hold up 2 fingers. If they choose to continue, I will say, “That’s 3” hold up 3 fingers and say (as unemotionally as possible), “It’s time for a break.” I will designate a spot for a break and tell them I will let them know when break is over (5-10) minutes.

After the first explanation of this plan, one little darling almost immediately thought she would test it out! Okay, here we go! Help me, Lord!

Darling child, “Can I have a snack?”

Mom, “No, it’s 30 minutes until dinner.”

Sweet, darling child, “But, I am HUNGRY. I haven’t eaten for 10 minutes! Why can’t I have a snack?”

Mom, “It’s 30 minutes until dinner. And, that’s 1,” holding up 1 finger.

Dear, sweet, darling child, “But, I am so hungry! Why can’t you tell me why?”

Mom, “That’s 2,” holding up 2 fingers.

Lovely, dear, sweet, darling, child, “Oh great! So you can’t even tell me why!? I just want a snack!”

Mom, “That’s 3, time for a break. Please go sit on the stairs. I will tell you when break is over.”

Precious, lovely, dear, sweet, darling, child, “Why did you have to talk to that counselor!” stomping off to the stairs.

I am not worrying about the behavior on the way to the stairs because my goal is to quickly and unemotionally stop the badgering and to reset. We are doing that by taking a break.

I set a timer for 10 minutes and then call to the child, “Break is over.” I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the child returned in a pleasant mood, ready to find something to do until dinner.

Flash forward to the next morning. Darling child, “Can I make pancakes for breakfast?”

Mom, “That sounds good, but we have to leave in one hour so there just isn’t time today.”

Sweet, darling child, “But, why can’t I make pancakes?”

Mom, “We are leaving soon. And, that’s 1,” holding up 1 finger

Child sulks off grumbling something under her breath, all the while developing self-control.  We move on with our day.

For more serious infractions such as physically hurting someone, damaging property, or aggression, you go straight to 3 and the child takes a break. Usually a more serious infraction also involves some sort of restitution in our house…fixing what they broke, mending the relationship, doing something physical to get the aggressive behavior out appropriately.

Be Your Own Health Advocate

At age 25, when I first became ill with an ultra rare disease, aHUS (atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome), doctors had little idea of what was going on or what to do about it. And, I didn’t know that when a doctor said, “Let’s try XYZ to treat you,” I should say, “Why? Explain this to me.”

I didn’t realize the doctor was not my boss. The doctor is not all-knowing. And my life is not in the doctor’s hands.

In a healthy patient/doctor relationship, the patient is free to ask questions, seek clarification, share about their own research, and discuss concerns. If a doctor does not accept this from you as the patient, you should strongly consider finding a different doctor.

I have had a few wonderful doctors over the years. Besides accepting questions and thoroughly listening to me, the wonderful ones are those that admit when they don’t know something and then they seek to learn.

What about you? What did you learn this month? Is that a tough question to answer? Don’t worry! God has an answer for that. James, 1:5 says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Need wisdom? Need to learn something? Need to see a breakthrough in a certain situation in your life? Need greater understanding?

ASK GOD, the one who gives it to you liberally!

 

 

Awareness

September 24th may or may not hold meaning for you. For me, it signifies a day of awareness. A day or remembering the 12 years of my life with no definitive diagnosis for the cause of my failing kidneys, high blood pressure, low energy, and strange seemingly unexplainable clotting problems.

September 24th is aHUS Awareness Day. aHUS stands for atypical Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome. It is a disease where small blood clots form in tiny blood vessels throughout the body.

aHUS awareness 2017

I became ill  in 2001. Because aHUS is an ultra rare disease, meaning in the United States, fewer than 200,000 people are affected, it was very difficult for me to receive a diagnosis.

Finally around 2013, I received proper testing and thus a definitive diagnosis of aHUS was made. About 2 years after that, I began receiving the life saving treatment (not cure), Soliris, as a bi-weekly infusion.

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend my first conference through the a HUS Foundation. It was a wonderful time of connecting with other patients and their families, learning about the disease and treatment from an experienced doctor, sharing stories of hope, and encouraging one another. My prayer was that God would use me to encourage even just one other person and that I would learn something new.

God didn’t waste any time at all…He never does! The very first family we met at the conference was a lovely family of a little 4 year old boy who had been diagnosed at 9 months of age. Simply introducing myself as the patient and mentioning that I first became ill back in 2001 was enough to cause their jaws to drop and say without filter, “And you are still here! Wow!” There you go, God, encouraging even just one person!

Many inquired about why I had never been to a conference before. With how much I enjoyed the conference, sitting amongst those who understand my life with aHUS, I had to really think…why had I never attended a conference before?

A big reason was probably all of the years of not knowing for sure whether or not I had aHUS. Why pursue learning about a disease I may not have?

Another reason was I imagined the conference being sad and depressing. I imagined sitting around listening to sad stories of suffering from people stuck in this disease. What I found was the opposite. I saw life! Children living their lives as children with aHUS: playing, laughing, learning, growing. Adults with families and careers living their lives as warriors. Family members spreading the word about diagnosis and treatment, learning all they can, fundraising, raising awareness.

Fullerton conference

As a group, we even attended Disneyland, the happiest place on earth! All of us connected by the same disease, laughing, enjoying our lives!

Awareness provides answers, diagnosis, and treatment. Take a minute to check out the aHUS Foundation website: aHUS Foundation

Here is a link to my story which I shared on Facebook: Facebook Live

Thank you for reading my story!

In Discouragement, Consider Him

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. Hebrews 12: 1-3

Every two weeks, I go through the same routine. Get up early. Wake up my youngest daughter. Pack a bag with some snacks and water. Load up some school work and something fun for Abby to do after completing school work. Head to an infusion center a few miles from my house to receive a life-saving medication, which is providing more dialysis-free/kidney transplant-free time for me. More about my life with aHUS here,  here and here.

Today was the day. Discouragement flooded in. Maybe it was because it was Wednesday and my usual Tuesday routine was disrupted due to a conflict at the infusion center. Maybe it was the sun beckoning me to be outside. Maybe it was my daughter’s groans expressing her complaints about getting up early with me. Maybe it was the bruise on my forearm from the previous IV. Or, maybe it was just the enemy’s tactic that morning to pull me down.

IV pic

What I know is that discouragement gets me to focus on none other than me. I am inward focused, thinking about, meditating on, and dwelling on my circumstances. Discouragement gets me stuck in my expectations and hopes and how things might have been. Discouragement leaves me thinking things like, “I don’t deserve this”.

But, the final sentence in the Hebrews passage above is verse 3 in which Paul instructs us to, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart“.

Consider: to think carefully about, regard with respect, pay attention to.

Paul in essence says, “Stop thinking about what is trapping you in sin. Keep running your race. Think about Jesus.”

Messages such as Hebrews 12: 1-3, always had me thinking something to myself along the lines of “think about Jesus and the torture and death He endured. Lisa, you can endure another needle poke, another day of fatigue, more trials, etc.”

I think there is some merit to that, comparing our circumstances to others who have gone through worse or are currently in a deep struggle.  When discouragement entrapped me today, something that helped in taking my eyes off myself was just that.

I remembered the patients in Australia who have a petition going to attempt to allow them to receive the medication I so easily receive. I remembered the friend fighting cancer with little strength to take care of her family. I saw the homeless couple in the parking lot rearranging their life’s belongings in their car. I focused on the friend with 3 foster children, pouring out her heart each day so the children can find healing. I thought about the lost, having no knowledge of the Loving Father they could find refuge in.

But, I am beginning to see the Hebrews passages in a different light. Rather than only comparing my suffering to Jesus’ suffering, I am beginning to see the magnitude of who He is.

The suffering He endured was for me.

The suffering He endured was necessary.

The suffering He endured met the requirement.

Jesus is better.

If you don’t know, dear one, Jesus is better. He is good. He is to be trusted. He is above all. He holds it all together. When you are in the midst of your trial, you must remember. You must consider. Jesus is better.

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