This Roller Coaster of Life

I can’t believe it’s been 9 months since I last posted on here. I had such good intentions of updating, then life happened. I thought the roller coaster we were on was one with a few hills and descents- little did I know last July that just around the corner lurked a roller coaster that would rival anything I had dealt with before. Due to health issues just about all home reno has had to stop. I’ll explain more on that in a bit. Gene’s recently changed jobs, but that was for the good and we are so happy about it. We have had a lot of doctors’ appointments & a few therapy sessions. In August and September I took the girls to a combined total of 50 appointments. We stopped seeing the chiropractor in August when we realized the adjustments were causing us to have more dislocations (this may not be the case for everyone, but all 4 of us agreed on this for us). In the last 9 or so months Hannah, Rachel, Caroline, & I also started getting treatment for Fibromyalgia. We have had a few ups and downs during this time and I wanted to share some of them with you.

Sarah has been much improved in the last few months. The first struggle since her breakdown was overcoming her feeling of rejection and grieving that. The next biggest struggle was her eating. It seemed like most everything caused her stomach issues, which in turn caused extreme pain, which led to anger and lashing out. Sarah is mentally about 6, deaf, and autistic. When she begins to hurt, she doesn’t understand where it is coming from and doesn’t know how to communicate that, much like a young child. We have been doing a lot to work on her gut health with probiotics as of late and have seen tremendous strides. She is happier, more engaged, and sleeping much better. 

Caroline’s health journey has had the most ups and downs. Last summer she started by having gastro problems, trouble eating, and feeling extreme nausea- all of the time. She still has this issue but all of her gastro tests came back as normal. She has also had some neurological issues with buzzing in her head (imagine a lawnmower in your head), tinnitus, migraines, night terrors, and a type of paralysis that comes with her allergic attacks. The allergic attacks range from passing out when she smells, touches, or eats something (the list of things in this list is ever growing and we never know what new thing will cause it to happen). She has also reacted by having mild anaphylaxis (which at any time could go to full blown) and the paralysis I mentioned which will last from 30 minutes to an hour. We have seen many doctors about these issues. This week we are seeing our second neurologist and we are traveling to Jackson to see our third allergist. Many doctors will look at the symptom list and either tell you it’s not their field, they don’t recognize it, or the really wonderful ones (note sarcasm) will tell you it’s all in your head- no pun intended. She is also going to be seeing an endocrinologist and cardiologist in the near future. 

Rachel has seen huge improvements in the last 9 months. In October of 2015 we bought her a wheelchair because she was gradually getting weaker and by January of 2016 she couldn’t walk more than a few steps without collapsing. Part of this is due to POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), and part of it has a neurologic component that we haven’t pinned down yet. The neurologist initially thought she had cataplexy (part of narcolepsy) but the sleep study didn’t show that. We go back in a few weeks to see what we can determine there. She also began having a lot of neck pain last summer and began using a neck brace. In August she began PT and they helped her a great deal. By the end of it she was able to walk around with the aid of a walker. Then her aunt and uncle gave her a treadmill which helped her endurance and by Oct she was walking in a store for the first time unaided. Now she only uses the chair very rarely on a really bad pain/weakness day and she hardly ever needs the neck brace. Rachel is also having some issues that seem similar to Caroline’s allergy issues (not the passing out though) so we have been using some antihistamines with her and they seem to be helping.

Hannah has many of the same issues that Rachel and Caroline experience but sadly can take little medicine to alleviate the issues. Back in the fall the doctor put her on Claritin to try to help the issues and after taking one pill (it was gluten free) it had her in bed barely able to function for 2 weeks. Thankfully she is able to take Gabapentin for her fibro which is really helping. She has started to take some vitamins that seem to be helping, but she has to add them in very slowly. It can take two weeks to get her up to a full dose. She has to start by holding the pill, then she moves on to tasting a little and gradually increases until she is able to take the pill. We have found that by going this slowly we can often find something that causes her a reaction. Though that didn’t work with the Claritin. She is also able to take BC when she has pain (most days) and we are very thankful she is able to tolerate it. 

I was able to go to the doctor in November and was also diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I suspected that I had it for years, but back when it first flared up there wasn’t really anything doctors were doing for it and it seemed manageable, so I didn’t worry about it. The doctor started me on Gabapentin as well but unfortunately I don’t respond as well as the girls do to it. For me it makes me really tired and run down feeling. I have heard from others that it causes them severe neurological issues. I will go back in a few weeks and will talk to him about some other alternatives. The day after Christmas was a very sad day for us because my mother died. She had been in declining health for 2 1/2 years. It was a very sad time, but it was good to be able to re-connect with family we hadn’t seen in so very long.

Here are some stats from the last 9 months:
Caroline: 
ER visits: 4

Hospital admissions: 1

MRIs: 2

Major Tests: 6- colonoscopy, endoscopy, swallow study, gastric emptying, gall bladder function (2) 

Rachel:

MRIs: 2

Major Tests: 2- sleep study, nerve conduction

Hannah:

ER visits: 1

Every time they go to the doctor there is usually some type of bloodwork to be done, so we wouldn’t really count that as unusual. 

This brings you up to date on our life and the wild roller coaster ride that it is. We have been truly blessed through these trying times with strengthening love for one another and seeing how God sustains us even in the most difficult of times. This slideshow is a small glimpse into our life over the last 9 or so months. I’d love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and let me know who you are. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask and I will answer them to the best of my ability.

Blessings! 

Please Don’t Pray for God to Heal Me

I know I haven’t written in a while and my next several blog posts will give you a fuller picture as to why I haven’t. Before I get into why I don’t want you to pray for God to heal me, I want to give you a snapshot of my life at this very moment. If you are unaware Hannah, Rachel, Caroline and I all suffer with chronic Lyme and for the last 3 years Sarah’s has been recovering from a breakdown (read about that here). It’s 11:43pm, I’m sitting at my desk with most of my joints hurting in addition to an unexplained pain in my lower back that is shooting down my leg with no end in sight. I have been suffering from much more frequent Lyme attacks and many nights am unable to get to sleep until 6am because of muscle spasms, Sarah, or both. If Sarah is asleep before 3am I will be happy. Now, waiting for her to get to sleep doesn’t consist of just sitting back chilling, it is a constant battle to get her to stop screaming- and I mean screaming- blood curdling screams. The other night, she never went to sleep. I finally tapped out at 7am and Hannah took over for me. Hannah is battling extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog, confusion, difficulty communicating, and exhaustion. Rachel has been dealing with atonic seizures, general overall weakness, brain fog, and exhaustion.  Caroline has been having migraines and has hardly left her bed for two weeks. She has many of the same Lyme symptoms as Hannah as well as some others. The other day we went to a new doctor to have her checked for POTS and EDS. The doctor found an arrhythmia and did an EKG at that time. They have also run blood work and she will be going in for an echo-cardiogram and CT.   All 3 of the girls are pretty much home-bound. They each haven’t left the house more than a couple of times for anything other than chiropractor visits since Thanksgiving. 

I’m not listing all of this for sympathy, but to put the following in context for you. As of late the girls and I have had many conversations about where God has us. Due to a conversation one of the girls had with someone I have really been thinking about this. Over the past almost 5 years we have had a lot of conversations with people about our illness. Actually, it’s been longer than that. For many years before we knew what was going on they had issues and symptoms that kept them at home most of the time. 

We have heard many different comments from people over the years. Some meant to encourage, some were veiled criticism, and some were just plain unkind. Here are a few of them. 

“I think the girls just have their schedules switched around like a baby’s. If you flip it, everything will be fine.” — Referring to the girls insomnia

“I think we should all want to be at church so that we can fellowship with other believers.” — from an elder’s wife when the girls were too sick to attend for months

“There must be sin in your life, if you repent they will get well.” This comment has been made by everyone from pastor to layperson to Gene and I as well as the girls. 

“You just need to eat this/use this herb/oil/supplement/routine.” This is something often said to us by people who haven’t really taken the time to understand what is going on and who are offering us a cure all. We do have people that know what’s going on that make good/informed recommendations and are helpful.

“They don’t look sick.” or “I saw a picture of them on FB and they looked like they felt fine.” They don’t realize that because of whatever outing they were on in that picture they could be in bed for up to a week or more.

“I saw that they did _____ why weren’t they up for ______.”

“God doesn’t intend for us to be sick, if we’re doing things right, we should have good health.”

Many of these comments are meant with good intentions. They are often borne out of a lack of understanding of our circumstance and of scripture. The reality is, it’s easier for people to lay blame rather than face the reality that God doesn’t promise us an easy life. If we look at the life of our friend Job, we will see this to be true (he’s become a very good friend of mine over the last few years. If he’s not your’s, you really need to get to know and understand him). God called Job “blameless and upright”. All of the tragedy that befell him wasn’t due to his sin, though his friends said it must be (sound familiar?). Job never cursed God though people told him he should. He suffered, he agonized, he didn’t understand, he felt overwhelmed. I have felt all of those things many times over- on an almost daily basis. Yet in all of the despair, he knew God was there and in control.

The thing is, God didn’t promise me happiness, he promised me joy in Him. He didn’t say I wouldn’t have trials- He said I would and that they would bring about fruit in my life and work together for my good. He said I would be weak, but that I could find strength in Him. He said I would despair to the point of not knowing how to pray- but that the Spirit would pray for me. He never said that He wouldn’t give me more than I could handle- He will never give me more than HE can handle. 

You may be asking yourself, “Why don’t you want me to pray for your healing?” Because I want God’s perfect will for my life, as do Hannah, Rachel, and Caroline. We recognize that God has allowed this in our life for a reason- to bring glory to Him. To think otherwise would imply that God is not in control and He is. He is in control of every molecule and atom in this universe. Nothing escapes His notice, so therefore, He must have allowed this in our lives. Does that mean we sit back and do nothing? No. We treat our illnesses as best we can, but trust God for the outcome. 

Many believe that God’s main purpose is to heap blessings upon us. It’s not. Our purpose is to glorify God in all that we do and say. If I am spending my days and prayer time saying, “God, please heal me- take this away.” I’m not saying,  “God, show me your will in this and how I can best serve you through it.” To be honest, as of late my prayer has been more along the lines of, “God, I don’t know how to bear this. I am overwhelmed, exhausted and hurting. I can’t even focus to read your word or pray. Please help me! Give me the strength I need to take care of my girls. Give me the wisdom I need to help them! Forgive me where I fail you and let my fatigue and feelings of being pressed down and spent cause me to be unkind, selfish, and self-pitying.” 

So, how can you pray for us and others in similar circumstances? We need prayers in so many areas. 

You can pray for: 
                Strength, Wisdom, Sleep, Encouragement, Seeking His Will, Being Accepting of His Will, Contentment, Compassion, Patience, Joy, Peace, and so many more Godly traits. 

Every trial that has come into my life is for a purpose. I don’t pretend to understand it. And please don’t think I am above total despair- I’m not (just keepin’ it real here). I can’t count the times I have asked God to deliver me from this. To deliver my girls- as a mom it rips my heart out to not be able to help them. But God has taught me so much. I think I love them- but His love for them greatly surpasses what I can even imagine. He’s got this! I just need to be reminded of it sometimes. 

This song is our hymn of the month at church. God knew it was exactly what I needed. I hope that you will be blessed by it as well. 

 

Looking Back- 2014

This last year has been one of changes and growth for our family. It started out with our family being in a very hard place. We had been dealing with Sarah’s breakdown for 9 months and it was taking a toll on us all. A year later we are still dealing with it, but we are in a much better place spiritually and emotionally.

In 2014 we confirmed what I had  suspected for years, Sarah is autistic. It plays a great role in her breakdown and inability to handle the great rejection that was placed upon her.  We have learned so much in the last year about how diet can help or hinder her autism. Sarah now eats gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg-free and low sugar foods. She also avoids artificial preservatives, colorings and additives. This has put us on a huge learning curve as to how diet, nutrition and medications affect her.We found out that some foods are like a drug to Sarah and she is addicted to them just like an addict is to drugs. We also found out the hard way how something as simple as rice can send her to a place you don’t want to go.  Sarah has been off of her seizure meds for over a year now and hasn’t had a single breakthrough seizure. She used to have them whenever she didn’t sleep enough, but she has had some nights with no sleep and still no seizures. We are working on getting her on a decent sleep schedule which hopefully will allow me to get to sleep before 4:30am (sometimes it’s 10am).  

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Gene has been working 10 hrs a day (before dawn to late afternoon) 7 days a week since July only having a couple of days off during that time until last week at Christmas. When he did have a day off he was on the road to Louisiana (more on that in a bit). Hannah, Rachel & Caroline have been such a blessing to me during this time. I couldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for them and I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep. Thankfully, when I can’t stay awake any more they can usually take over for me. Though there were several days where I only had an hour of sleep a day for several days in a row. Thankfully we seem to be past that and boy am I thankful. 

From August until October things with Sarah were off the charts crazy (that’s when I got little to no sleep) but things have evened off greatly. Sarah is much more cooperative and has improved greatly since then. We still have a few days of craziness when her hormones flair, but she is much better than during those 3 months. 

Sarah is improving in obedience and awareness of others, though there is still much work to be done. We are so thankful for what the Lord has shown us in this area. A year ago I wanted the “old Sarah” back. This year I am much more realistic about it (more on what the Lord has taught me in a subsequent post). Now she is the new and in some ways improved Sarah. I would say she is at about 75% of where she was. I think it will probably be harder for her to trust others in the future. It’s hard for anyone to learn to trust again after being hurt in such a way. 

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I can see a great deal of spiritual growth in the girls this last year. They have been my right hand and my left. They have encouraged me when I am discouraged and helped me greatly when Gene is working. They are each battling Lyme and are at different stages of treatment. Hannah and Rachel are both seeing progress with their treatment. Caroline will be starting back on hers after the first of the year.

The last half of the year has been prepping for a move back to the town in Louisiana where Gene and I grew up. We hope to be moving back in early  spring, Lord willing. Gene has already made a couple of trips up there with boxes and will make a couple of more before the big move. Last Sept it seemed like spring would take forever to get here, but now that it’s a mere 12 weeks away, it seems awfully close and there is just so much to do. 

We’re ending our year on a very special day as we do every year.Today Gene and I will be celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary. I am so thankful to be married to the man I am! He is above gracious and understanding with me. He has been a rock for me during these difficult times and I am so blessed to have him here to help me. 

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As our year wraps up I look back and thank the Lord for every day in it. He has taught us to rely on Him, to rest in Him, and to trust in His faithfulness (I will share more on that in a following post). We have been blessed beyond measure and the Lord has given us what we have needed moment by moment. I pray that this new year will find you seeking the One from whom all blessings flow. 

 

 

 If you’d like to read more about what’s been going on with Sarah, this link will give you all of the articles I have written on her.  

A Break in the Storm

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We are rejoicing that there is a break in the storm that has been in our lives for the last year! The Lord has been so faithful! I don’t want to give the impression that He is faithful because the storm is breaking, He was faithful when the storm was at it’s worst. He was there to calm the stormy seas that were about to topple us, not by removing the storm, but by helping us through it.

Sarah has been on the SCD diet for almost a month now and she is showing great signs of improvement. Since I first wrote about putting her on the diet I have done more research and made further changes. One of the things we have eliminated is all dairy. Apparently dairy can work like a narcotic on the brain of an autistic child. I can believe it. Since we have taken her off of cheese she has behaved like an addict about it. We finally had to duct tape the cheese bin shut so that she would not be able to steal it before we could get to her. In the last few days we have had to remove eggs as well. We were suspecting that they were causing some issues and I did some research on them and found out that many who are negatively affected by dairy and gluten are also affected by eggs. This article was very interesting on the subject.

In the last week it is as if a fog has lifted from her brain. She is alert and you can see clarity when you look into her eyes. She will tell you what she wants and answer questions (sometimes). She is much more attentive and is paying attention to things. She has become interested in her surroundings and is actually focusing on movies, coloring and conversations. For the past year she would just sit stimming for most of the day seemingly staring into space. We still have a lot to overcome. If you ask her what she wants, needs or is upset about her first response will be, “I don’t know”. If she initiates it though, she has very precise desires. I found that out on a recent shopping trip. Her favorite color is yellow and she wanted a yellow hand towel to match her bath towel. I was fine with that, but then she started getting towels of every color of the rainbow to put in the cart. It took everything I had and a few tears on her part, to get out of there with only 2 towels.

We want to thank all of you who have been praying for her over the last year. It means more to us than you can know. We still covet your prayers as we now have to go through the stage of re-establishing boundaries and getting her on a schedule and getting some semblance of normalcy in our life. I’m sure there will be times of regression, they are to be expected. Today I feel more confident in her prognosis than I have all year. We are so thankful for the Lord’s provision and direction in all of this.

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Making Hard Decisions

Last night as I was typing up my post I got the kind of phone call we all dread. My brother called me to tell me that my mother had fallen in a hospital parking lot (actually she was blown over by a strong wind) and had broken her hip. I was faced with some hard decisions. My parents live a 6 hour drive from us, so that makes things complicated. For some people picking up and going at the drop of a hat isn’t a big deal. For us, it’s a big deal. I have two daughters who can’t eat anything other than what we prepare, and we have to make all of our food in advance. The last few times we have gone Hannah and I have pulled all nighters preparing several days worth of food, for 6 people with 3 different food restrictions/diets.

As moms we all have many decisions that we have to make every day. What meals to cook, what errands to run, how to do school. . . the list is endless. Some decisions are easier than others. Trying to decide what to do about traveling was making me physically ill. I don’t know about you, but I hate to feel like I’m letting someone down and not living up to their expectations of me.

As I tried to decide what to do several things were weighing on me.

Sarah- I’ve shared about her trials here, here, and here. Just last night I was up with her all night. Caroline relieved me at 8 am and Sarah finally fell asleep at 8:30am and slept for a few hours. Right now Sarah sleeps well about every third night. Sleeping well means that she is asleep sometime between 12 am-2 am and waking between 5am-8am. We just started her on the SCD diet and are starting to see some results. A trip might throw a wrench into things as she tends to regress after a trip or any additional stress.

Hannah- has been battling Lyme which presents in her differently than the rest of us. She has vestibular hyperacusis which can cause her to have anxiety issues, which can in turn lead to bouts of depression. These are chemical issues that we are treating, but it has flared to a severe level lately like it has only one time before. I have been staying up at night keeping watch over her. She often wakes between 4-6am having a mild panic attack and needs someone to be with her. Since we have added some supplements to help with this she is doing better, but they are not completely effective yet.

Rachel- has been battling her Lyme which can present with atonic seizures and many other symptoms. She has to take things easy a lot, though she tries to do as much as she can when she is up to it. She has written about her Lyme here, here and here.

Caroline- has also been battling Lyme, her symptoms have started getting more severe in the last few months. She has a lot of fatigue and brain fog. She has also been battling her asthma  a lot lately.

Gene- works long hours and has been working 6-7 days a week since last September. Between my schedule and his, we are getting to see each other occasionally on Sundays and about an hour and a half before he goes to bed.

Right now my sleeping schedule has roughly been 8 am – 2 pm. As I was going to bed this morning I got a text telling me that my mom’s surgery was happening in just a few minutes. At that point I was too exhausted and emotionally drained to think about what to do. I prayed before I went to sleep wanting some direction. It took me a while to fall asleep but once I got to sleep I rested well. When I awoke, I knew the decision I needed to make. We already have a trip planned to see all of our parents for Memorial Day weekend, so I decided to wait until then to go home.

This decision wasn’t easy, but I knew it was the right one. Often there will be demands coming at us from all directions. All of these things may seem urgent and like something we must do. It helps me to stop and think about my priorities. Right now the most important thing for Gene, the girls and me is to get Sarah better. We will sacrifice most anything for that to happen. So as I weighed out making a rushed trip, lots of long hours and the stress this would put on Sarah and the other girls (I knew that if we did this, there was a high probability that the girls would be in bed for up to 2 weeks after, trying to recuperate) I decided that the cost was too high. Going by myself wasn’t an option due to Sarah needing my constant attention. I also didn’t feel that I could juggle Sarah’s needs and the other girls while on the road alone.

Was this decision hard? You bet, but once I made it I knew it was right. I decided to stop beating myself up because I can’t be everything to everyone. I have made the wrong decision plenty of times, and my whole family has paid the price. It is so easy to fall into the trap of doing a lot of good things and pushing yourself harder than you should. It is important to know your priorities, which will help you not over-commit.

Choices come in different forms, whether to let the kids play ball, or take a class, to go on a trip or commit to something at church. All should be weighed according to the responsibilities God has given to you. We need to be good stewards of our time, just like we are with our money. I have also learned to sleep on such decisions before I make them. Things always seem clearer after sleeping on them.

Over the last 30 years I have made the wrong decision many times. I have worked over the years to streamline our commitments and to focus on our priorities, but I don’t always get it right. Everything we have been going through in the last year has really helped me solidify my priorities. My hope is that when life gets back to normal (whatever that is), that I will continue to be diligent in guarding our time and making the right decisions for it.

How do you make the tough decisions? How do you know you are making the right one?

Darkness

Writing has been difficult as of late. Words don’t flow – emotions are percolating too close to the surface. I have shared in the past some of what we have been dealing with both here and here. Last night was a difficult night – I’ve had quite a few lately. It was filled with tears, raw emotions and a lack of sleep. When I awoke today, this free verse poem was floating around in my head – well, really it was stomping around and wouldn’t stop until I wrote it down. I’ve never done this before, so please don’t judge too harshly. It shares some of the emotions and feelings we have been going through for the last 50 weeks. Yes, it’s been that long. Truth be told, many days I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Darkness

My eyes open with a start!

I’m surrounded by darkness.

Where am I?

How did I get here?

I’m alone, afraid, panicking!

How do I get out?!

I just want out!!

I want to feel the sun on my face and hear the birds singing.

I hear the slow drip of water- it’s damp and cold.

Little feet are scurrying around me.

Where am I?

Why has no one come to help?

 

I move, but am aimless.

I can’t find my way in the darkness.

I feel it pressing down on me.

I stumble and fall – scraping my knee.

I cry out!

I Am! Where are you?

He is here! I can feel His presence.

I feel peace in the midst of the darkness.

 

I hear someone crying out.

Pain – torment- agony – terror!

I run toward the sound, stumbling again and again.

I Am! Help me find her!

He calms me.

I move toward the sound talking to I Am as I move.

I can’t see anything but I know that He is with me.

He reassures me – He will provide a way.

 

I reach the crying one- in a heap, covered in dirt.

The gut wrenching wailing continues.

I reach out to comfort her.

She thrashes at me,

directs all of her anger and sadness toward me.

I feel heartbreak – sadness – confusion – panic!

How can I help her?

 

I try to get her to come with me.

We must find a way out of the darkness!

She resists.

She wants to stay?!

I try to help her along but she fights me.

In the dark and dank we argue for hours.

I call to I Am.

He is there- I can feel His presence.

The battle rages on.

Eventually she trusts enough to come with me.

 

We find a tunnel and see a speck of light.

A way out!

Pulling her toward the light – still she resists.

I Am! I need strength!

Struggling with her is making me weary!

I don’t know if I can go on!!

Rest.

He wants me to rest?

The end is near! I can see the light!

Reluctantly I rest.

She rests.

 

We move toward the light –

a little less resistance.

The light!

Disappointment and despair!

This is but a crossroads-

not the end of the journey!

 

I can’t continue- the struggle is more than I can bear!

What direction do I go?

I don’t want to go back into the darkness!

Is there no other way out?

She doesn’t want to go!

She seems to like it here.

She rails against me – blames me – yells at me – fights me.

I Am! Help me!

Which way do I go?!

How do I help her?!

We bow together.

She calms.

Peace returns.

I have direction.

I step into the darkness once again – she follows.

Afraid- but at peace.

 

I don’t know how long the darkness will last.

It may never end.

I Am will be with me.

He will guide and direct me.

No matter how dark it gets – He will be there.

 

This doesn’t end with a “happy ending” because life isn’t like that. The truth is, God isn’t up in heaven saying to himself, “How can I make Lora’s life easier so that she will be happy all of the time?” He has a purpose and a plan. Sometimes that plan is raw, painful and difficult (just ask Deitrich Bonhoeffer). It has a purpose none the less. The hard part for us is to figure out how to glorify Him in the midst of the darkness. Because my purpose above all others is to bring glory to Him.

If you feel as if you are in the darkness, please share. I will pray for you. It helps me to have others to pray for, to remember I’m not the only one trying to find my way in the darkness.

Rachel re-did my blog for me! She is a great blessing and encouragement in my blogging adventures!

My Journey: 2013

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2013 was a year that not many, if any, in my family would want to live through again. In many ways we feel as if we survived it only barely. God was gracious and brought us through but not without battle scars and bruises. In many ways this year has changed me more than any other. Looking back over it I find that the Lord has taught me much.

Not to be too trusting- I am a person who tends to give my heart to friends and acquaintances far too easily. I trust that others live by the same rules I do. Our family’s number one rule is: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I learned that everyone doesn’t play by the same rule book that I do. I learned that I need to guard my heart and trust slowly because people, even those who profess Christ, are not always what they appear. Scripture warns us of this telling us to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.

What is truly important- My priorities need to be God first, family second, and everything else somewhere after that. We had our world rocked with Sarah and her issues this year, then we had Papaw’s death. We ended out the year with my dad being in the hospital. All of these things tend to make you re-examine your life.

Hold onto things loosely- Things are nice, they are lovely and can bring back special memories, but they are just things. They are not more important than those we love and certainly not more important than God. We went through a period of really examining ourselves to see what we were making a god of. If we felt that we placed too high a value on it, out it went. Months later, I have no regret for the things that left. When I feel that pang of loss, I remind myself of what is truly important.

Unwanted journey- The journey we have been on over the last year has been unwanted and definitely not something I would have chosen. But it was necessary, or God wouldn’t have allowed it. That knowledge has gotten me through more than a few moments of despair. God allows us to go through His refining fire in order that He might work it in our lives for His good. That’s what I want, His good. Though it is often painful to go along the path He has for us. If we believe that the pathway is going to be easy, we are deceived. He tells us plainly in scripture that we will have difficulties and burdens. When He says He will make our burden light, it is not by the removal of that burden, but by helping us carry it as we travel on our way.

Trying to find our way- It still feels as if we are traveling through a thick forest on a moonless night. Stumbling and bumping into things as we go. But up ahead, there is a light guiding us out of the darkness. At times it is hard to see, but if we look hard we can see it. Don’t for a minute think I am saying that we have ever thought that God has forsaken us, because we didn’t. We always knew He had a purpose. Now, understanding that purpose and how He wanted us to navigate through the darkness is a different matter.

The Lord has blessed us in many ways this past year, and many of these circumstances came about because of our trials. He has been merciful and loving to us and a great source of comfort. We have lived most of the year in seclusion and isolation, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It has given us time to reflect and evaluate. Our hope and prayer is that in 2014 He will grant us the ability to be not so isolated, but we are leaving that firmly in His hands.

This song blessed me greatly during some of my darkest hours. I hope that you will find it to be a blessing as well.

I will be sharing in a few other posts some of the directions in which we feel the Lord is leading us. I will share some of my goals, those we are setting for our family and what I feel the Lord is laying on my heart in regard to My Titus 2 Journey.

How do you feel now that 2013 is over? Was God’s path and plan clear to you, or were you stumbling around in the dark as well? Please share as the Lord leads.

His Power Is Made Perfect In My Weakness

I have shared that we have been in the midst of a storm in our family. Many wounds and injuries are in the process of healing. Today I received some news that ripped open the healing wounds and made my knees buckle. I told the person who gave me the news that I was too numb to talk. I couldn’t think. Immediately my mind began to race and to think of ways I could fix the problem.

Then I cried– and sobbed. My mind was a jumble of emotions and I didn’t know what was right. What should I do? How should I respond?

A quick prayer went up, “Lord help me!” It’s really such a simple prayer. I didn’t need to share with Him what my burden was, or how my mind was a maze of confusion. In those three simple words He knew everything.

Clarity came. Not some great plan or great words of wisdom, just clarity. I remembered whom I serve. Not who serves me, but to whose will I am subject. I remembered another moment of clarity I had in the not so distant past.

One day when the seas of my life were rough, the waves were crashing down around me, and making me feel as if my ship would sink, I had a moment of clarity. I was reading for the 1,000th time about Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12 when verses 8 & 9 jumped out at me as if they were in bold lettering.

8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Paul prayed 3 times, not hundreds, not every day for a year, but 3 times. It got me to thinking and examining how I pray about things. Am I willing to just pray about a problem 3 times and then leave it in the hands of the Lord trusting that He will work His perfect will? Or do I become like that whining child who continues to come back to their parent asking repeatedly for the thing they want but have been told they can’t have at that time? Am I really trusting, resting and exhibiting faith when I continually come back asking for the same thing?

We often hear, “The Lord won’t give you more than you can handle.” This statement is based off of 1 Cor 10:13 (you need to read the whole chapter for context) and if you read the last few words it talks of there being a way of escape. That escape is Christ. I can tell you I have faced many things couldn’t handle, only Christ has brought me through it. He has been my escape, my refuge and my strength.

If I am truly trusting the Lord, I must learn to rest in Him. If I am giving my worries and concerns to Him I shouldn’t continue to go back to Him asking if He remembers about them. I need to leave it at the alter and walk away trusting that He will do His will.

This isn’t to say that I don’t do anything. I pray and ask for wisdom and discernment. How am I to respond to situations? What does scripture tell us to do? I should ask for direction, not a change in circumstance. As I was thinking about Paul this afternoon his imprisonment came to mind. What if Paul had spent all of his time in prison trying to find a way out of it instead of being about the Lord’s work while he was there? He wrote many of his epistles while imprisoned. If his focus had been on getting out of the situation, he wouldn’t have been able to do the Lord’s work. When Peter was imprisoned God provided a miraculous way out for him (Acts 12) and when and if the Lord wants these storms to leave my life, He will remove them.

People choose to sin, and their actions have consequences. Sometimes those who are innocent get hurt. Even in that God is in control. He didn’t take a nap and upon waking exclaim, “Would you look what happened there! I can’t believe it!” He is always in control. I rest in that. Nothing, no one escapes His notice. Even my tiny problems are important to Him.

When I am weak, shredded and broken He is strong. He carries me through the inferno that is my life in gentle loving arms. When I can’t go on, not under my own strength. I need Him. I don’t know how to fix the things in my life that are causing such pain, but I can rest in the fact that I don’t have to. He knows. He has a plan. He is in control. And His power is made perfect in my weakness.

How do you do to rest in Him when the storm is raging all about you?

Live To The Hilt

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Just two weeks ago I wrote a post about living in the future. Little did I know that things would happen that would have such a profound impact upon that future. Last Tues. night we got the kind of call we all dread. Gene’s step-father of 33 years was near death. Papaw died Wed. afternoon just as we were pulling out of Houston, heading toward Shreveport, LA.

We were all filled with great sadness over the loss of a kind-hearted man who thought of others and how to bless them in simple ways. Being with family made that loss easier to bear. We shed many tears and also shared many stories and laughter. Laughter is good medicine for the hurting heart.

Leaving was quite painful for us all. We wanted to be there to minister to Granny and help her with this transition in her life. Thoughts of moving back home were swirling in our minds. Then the realization set in that this just isn’t possible at this time of life. The job opportunities aren’t there for Gene and the reality is, you have to make money.

As I was getting back into the routine of things here at home, I felt discontentment setting in. I was complaining to God about the fact that He wasn’t providing a way for us to do this “good” thing. After all our motives were honorable, we want to minister to and serve our aging parents. Isn’t that the type of thing God would want us to do? What if He doesn’t provide a way?

As I ran a sink full of soapy water to do dishes this afternoon, my own words came back to haunt me.

As bumps come into my day, I need to pause and say a quick prayer asking the Lord what His will is for me in this moment and how does this fit into His future plan for me. Sometimes the answers are obvious; sometimes they are harder. We can have so many good opportunities in our lives that it can be difficult to see His best opportunities.

I was looking at what I thought was good and not looking at His best. If He has us here, for however long that is, He has a purpose in it. I need to rest in His purpose and live my life today with gusto; trusting in Him to take care of the future.

Wherever you are, be all there! Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.  Jim Elliot

I have always loved this quote by Jim Elliot. I just need to put it into practice. Life is fragile, it will end before we know it. I don’t want to look back with the regret of living in the what might be or what might have been.

Lies Women Believe– Introduction

Last week I mentioned that we would be starting an online Bible study this week on my FB page. This week we will be discussing the Introduction to “Lies Women Believe”.

Satan using lies to trip us up is one of his oldest and most used ploys. It began in the garden with Eve. The lies we are told are usually not big whopper lies, but lies that are 85% truth with just 15% of it being a lie. Our believing the lies that we are told keeps us from having the productive and abundant life that we have been told are ours as His children. I don’t mean abundant as in material possessions, but in the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If we are feeling defeated by our circumstances fruits like joy and peace are going to be far from us.

Recently I have been through some tough things that made me feel as if I was in a bottomless pit. I couldn’t see how to get out. The darts of lies were flooding my spirit constantly. Through the early days of that trial I spent countless hours in the Word and prayer. It took a few days but it became clear which were the lies and which were the truth. When I focused on the truth I felt a peace I couldn’t comprehend. The lies brought about doubt and confusion.

I don’t want to minimize things and make it sound as if once that week was over, things were great. They weren’t and still aren’t. We are still dealing with this and probably will be for a while. Are things better? A ton! But the trial is still here and the Lord is continuing to teach us through it. Daily we pray for wisdom, not for the next week, but for the day. I can’t tell you how many times I would pray for the Lord to give me wisdom for the day, and He would. Honestly, I would often forget I had prayed for that wisdom and when a realization would come to me someone in my family would remind me that I had prayed for wisdom and that the Lord was hearing me and answering my prayers. I think that is often one of the lies that is spoken to us, that God really isn’t listening to us.  He is and He is answering in His time and in His way.

I don’t know if you have ever dealt with someone who lies to you, but once you know that you have been and are being lied to it seems to be freeing. At least it is to me. It helps me tremendously to know the type of person I’m dealing with and what I have in them. If we learn to recognize the lies that are being told to us, the truth will become more clear and we will be able to combat the lies.

If you’re reading along with us (and even if you aren’t) share your thoughts. I’d love to hear them. Drop by my FB page and join the conversation as well.