Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Well, I'm a day late, but just wanted to say Merry Christmas - Happy Birthday Jesus! =)
I read Psalm 117 yesterday and it seemed very appropriate.
"Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol Him all you peoples. For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD."

God showed His love in sending His son. I never cease to be amazed that Jesus would give up everything He had in heaven, to be born as a helpless baby, in a smelly stable even. What tender compassion and humble love!
Hebrews 2:11 says "Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers."
Now that is incredible! That Jesus, awesome as He is, is not ashamed to be called my brother, to acknowledge me as part of His family. WOW!

Thank you Jesus, for coming, for dying, for rising again, for saving me from sin and death and for calling me your sister, part of your divine family!
Amen and amen.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Singing trees, jubilant flowers

"Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for He comes...." -Psalm 96:11-13a

Isn't it amazing how creation is always praising God? If only we were as faithful....










"Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy." -Psalm 99:9
Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happiness

Last week God gave me a very special gift. I was sitting by the beach, trying to breathe deeply in the fresh air. It had been a rough week (what's new?). I was gazing out over the ocean and suddenly saw a bunch of dolphins! (bunch=at least 5, maybe more, it was hard to tell.) It's been a long time since I've seen dolphins. It was so fun to watch them jumping and swimming. Then I saw two of them do something that looked like body surfing! They jumped into a wave right as it crested and rode it in for a bit. It looked like they were having a lot of fun. =)
I thanked the Lord for giving me such a special gift. It was a sweet reminder of His love as well as an illustration for my own life. Of all the animals, I always think of dolphins as the hpapiest ones. I think it's mostly because of the way God made them - they always look like they're smiling. =) If you think about it, a dolphin doesn't have an easy life. They face predators, finding food, etc. Yet they seem so happy just to be in the ocean!
I've felt convicted lately about my lack of being "glad" in the Lord. As I read through Psalms, I keep seeing more and more verses that command us to be glad in the Lord. When I feel so awful physically, it's hard to be glad about anything. But the Lord is indeed always wonderful, no matter how I feel. I felt like the Lord was telling me, 'Be like the dolphins. No matter what hardships are in your life, just be glad to be in the ocean of my love!'
Isn't it great to know that Jesus has provided not only eternal life, everything we need for this life and grace for each trial, but also the ability to be truly Happy in Him, regardless of our circumstances? This is something I'm learning more about...thanks to some very special creatures.


Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of the dolphins, but I do have proof I was at the beach. =)


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Anniversary

"Come and listen, all you who fear God; let me tell you what He has done for me." -Psalm 66:16

This month marks 4 years since I got really sick and had to quit working, had to give up "normal" life, and began a journey I never would have chosen. November has become a sort of anniversary for me...'celebrated' with sadness that it's been another year and I'm still not well, but also with gratitude for the good things God has done through this trial.
4 years...it's hard to believe. In the beginning I thought it would be a short-term problem, hopefully resolved in a few months. Gradually as time stretched out and I saw doctor after doctor who just didn't know what to do for me, I began to realize God had a very different plan in store than what I expected. (Basically there's more wrong with me than most doctors can fathom. How I got this sick is another story, but my health has been under attack from various things since high school. What happened 4 years ago was just the final straw.)
The first two years were like being in a tunnel with no light at the end. I kept praying and trying just to hold on to what I knew was true. Then two years ago at Thanksgiving God gave me a breakthrough, not in my health but in my heart. Finally I could see the light, not at the end of the tunnel, but beside me in the darkness illuminating the next step. The Lord showed me that His purpose was to use the physical trial to bring not just spiritual "growth" but spiritual transformation--deep change from the inside out! Until then I couldn't see just how desperately I needed God to change things on the inside of me (thoughts, desires, hopes, fears...).
Once again, I thought at first that this process would be a short-term one, a few changes and then I'd be good to go (not perfect, but better somehow?). As the months went by, the Holy Spirit kept revealing more and more areas of my life He wanted to transform. The Lord showed me that it's a life-long, continual process He does in me so that others can see His power at work. He always uses some sort of tool to do His transforming work. Right now for me it's serious health problems. It's not the tool I would have chosen, but it's the one He knows is best.
It hasn't been easy. I've had days of pure agony physically, emotionally and spiritually. There were days I didn't think I'd make it through and days when I didn't care if I lived or died. I questioned God, I wept, I begged for mercy, I despaired.... Through it all He never has forsaken me. He has also given me days of pure joy in Him completely apart from my circumstances, moments of insight, greater freedom and intimacy with Him...and so much more. For these things I am deeply grateful.
As I face another year of this trial (and possibly longer), I can't help but think of all the things I miss. I miss little things like walking to the mailbox, cleaning the house, going shopping, driving a car.... I miss having the strength to talk, the ability to think clearly, the enery to sing, the fun of staying up late.... I miss really important things like spending time with family and friends, going to church, being involved in ministry.... I don't know when I'll be able to enjoy these things again. But I am thankful for the greater riches Jesus has given me of inner transformation and deeper intimacy with Him. Whatever the next year holds in store, I know that my Heavenly Father knows what is best for me.
Amy Carmichael said, "So does our...Beloved, choose out of all possible circumstances (and they are all at His command) the best for the fulfillment of His purpose...However things may appear to be, of all possible circumstances, this in whose midst we are set is the best that He could choose." (from "Rose From Brier")
I believe this is true. I am confident that God will continue to use the hardships He allows to bring the transformation He desires, and thus bring glory to His wonderful name!
So by His grace, I can say - Happy Anniversary, glory to God!

"Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." -Psalm 9:10

Friday, November 28, 2008

An Adrenal Analogy

I've spent the last week under major adrenal stress (thanks to a strong allergy to something in our house). It's very difficult to explain to someone who has never experienced adrenal problems how awful and frightening it can be.

This week while I was resting, trying to concentrate on breathing and using as little as energy as possible, the Lord gave me an analogy which I think is pretty good. Maybe it will be helpful to those who are fortunate enough to have no clue what adrenal insufficiency is all about.

Simply put, the adrenal glands are like the body's energy generator. No adrenal function = no production of energy = thus no body function. I've been labled with "adrenal insufficiency" or "adrenal fatigue" which basically means my adrenals are barely functioning, thus I have almost no energy in my body. So I only have energy for essential body functions. Things like talking, jumping, running, etc. are now luxuries, not normal life.

Anyway, my analogy is to think of the adrenals like a battery-powered generator. You have to plug it in to a power source at night to recharge it, then run on the battery during the day.

Unfortunately, my 'battery' doesn't recharge much at night, so I have very little battery power during the day. Every movement, every stress big or small, etc. takes a certain amount of 'battery' power from the generator. The worst part is that when the 'battery' is all used up (like with a major stress), then I feel the generator "sputtering" nearing the end of its reserve. Unfortunately, if the generator ever quits completely, that's it. No restarting it. That is the danger of adrenal problems. You have to know the warning signs and immediately stop using energy and find a way to recharge or you end up in adrenal crisis.

Thankfully I've never gotten as bad as adrenal crisis (which would put me in the hospital or worse). But I have experienced some of the warning signs like nausea and shakiness. That's when the body gets panicky, and it's hard to stay calm as you feel your inner source of energy 'sputtering.'

In God's grace, He reassures me that He will see me through those scary moments, but it's still hard. I'm thankful for the Cortef (cortisol), which is an external way to 'recharge' my battery. Other than that I have to suspend all activity that isn't completely essential and just try to rest in God's hands. I certainly hope that one day my adrenals will be recovered, and I'll forget what it's like to be always thinking about the state of my internal 'generator.' Until then, I'm thankful for people's prayers and God's sustaining grace.

I hope this analogy is a helpful glimpse into what it's like for me at times. I'm glad that this is not common knowledge to people, because that means they have the privilege of taking normal function for granted. If you're reading this, I hope you're thankful for that. =)

God bless,
-Joanna

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving

"They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the LORD. They were to do the same in the evening." -I Chronicles 23:30

I read this verse today about the duties of the Levites. Can you imagine it being part of your job every day, twice a day, to stand up and thank and praise the Lord? On the surface it sounds easy, but what if one of them just had a fight with his wife, or had a sick kid at home, or his donkey just died? It didn't matter. That was their duty every day, twice a day, to thank and praise the Lord. I can't help but imagine that those Levites were probably the most blessed of the Israelites. How could you spend every day giving thanks and praise to God no matter what and not come away with a different perspective and a heart at peace?

This week I spent some time telling the Lord all the things I don't like about my life:
I don't like having dry skin because I'm allergic to lotions.
I don't like not being able to go shopping when I need a new pair of jeans or shoes.
I don't like being cold because I can only wear 100% cotton sweaters, (which are next to impossible to find).
I don't like being too weak to talk.
I don't like not getting to spend time with family & friends
I really don't like not being able to go to church and fellowship with my wonderful church family!
.....
I won't bore you with the rest. It was quite a pity party. The Lord is a kind listener, but He also helped me to change the direction of my thoughts and be thankful.
I'm very thankful that in Heaven I won't have to worry about dry skin r being cold, and I won't need to go shopping! =)
I'm very thankful that in Heaven I'll be able to talk all I want and it will all be praise to Jesus!
I'm very thankful that in Heaven I'll have forever to spend in fellowship with my loved ones, like an eternal church service!
I'm so thankful for the hope of eternity in Heaven, when all the hardships of this life will be a distant memory.

I wish I could get in the habit of thanking God for these things every day, twice a day. But until that small miracle happens, I'm really thankful for this week and the holiday we celebrate. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. No muss, no fuss, no commercialism, just a pure and simple reminder to be thankful. And even if I can't find much to be thankful for in my circumstances here and now, there is always much to be thankful for in what is waiting for me!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Then again, maybe not...

...so sad...in less than 24 hours being home, I got very sick again! I knew I had to leave the house or end up in serious trouble. Thankfully, the Lord worked out some details for me to come back to my friends house in Orlando. So here I am again. My poor mom and I had a really rough day, but we're just trusting that God knows what He's doing. I hope & pray that my doctor's ideas will make a difference. I'm going back to see him again on Wednesday. We'll see. Thanks for praying!
Hanging on,
-Joanna

Thursday, November 20, 2008

After 4 months...

the good news is that I'm finally home!! I came home today, much to my mom's delight! No more driving back & forth for her from house to house. =) Unfortunately, this house is still bothering me a little bit, but I'm just hoping & praying it won't be serious. We'll see. If it gets really bad I can always go back to my friends for a bit (at least I think they'll put up with me again). =) I told my new doctor the situation and he thinks he can help us with it. I'm so thankful for his knowledge & insight about so many things! We'll see if his ideas work or not. In the meantime, I'm just trying to hang in there. One day at a time, and maybe a trip to the beach will help. =)
Thanks to all who are praying! Keep it up!
Resting in God's hands & His timetable,
-Joanna

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Praise

I've been reading Ecclesiastes and Psalms at the same time. There's such a contrast between the two. Solomon's words are depressing - life is meaningless, it's all chasing after the wind, everyone has the same fate-death, so who cares... David's words are inspiring - my soul finds rest in God, God will fulfill His purpose for me, I will praise you as long as I live.... I especially like that last one. No matter what troubles David went through he always came back to praising God. Solomon studied long and hard, had lots of wisdom, yet could find no greater purpose in life than eat, drink, and enjoy your work while your life lasts. Sadly, he missed out on the real meaning in life - enjoying GOD! David on the other hand, had a deep relationsip with God. I can almost hear him saying, "Lord, even if everything goes wrong in my life and nothing good comes of it, I will still praise you and that will make my life meaningful and worthwhile." I guess I can hear him saying that because it's something I'm learning to say. Even if I never "accomplish" anything in my life, if I can say with David, "I will praise you as long as I live," then my life will not be a 'chasing after the wind.' And maybe, like David, my simple praise will be something God will use to make a difference long after I'm gone. I hope so.

*Praise God - I actually got a refund from the clinic in Dallas! They sent me a bill in Sept, which I went over and it didn't seem to add up. So I called them and low and behold, they owed me money! (We paid for everything up front, then when medicare kicked in they adjsuted the prices for me, thus the refund!) God is so sweet to me! There's nothing quite like getting an unexpected check in the mail. =)

*Praise God - for my new doctor. He's so great! He said I'm never a bother when I call him with questions and stuff. And he hasn't even charged me for the phone calls (even though a lot of doctors do). I seriously had quit believing there were any kind and helpful doctors left out there. God knew better than me. =)

*Praise God - for His WORD! I can't even imagine how hard life would be without the Bible. Jesus said the truth will set you free; He knew what He was talking about. I'm so thankful for the way God continues to renew my mind in His truth - changing old beliefs and habits of thinking that I wasn't even aware were affecting me. His truth is so life-giving and as the psalmist said, 'has set my heart free."

*Praise God - for my mom! She is a daily expression to me of God's love, kindness, grace, mercy.... I know very few people experience the privilege of having a parent who is a real and true representation of God's Father love. I am so blessed!

(I could go on and on, but for the sake of my wavering strength I'll close with one more.)

*Praise God - for Flowers! I love taking pictures of flowers. Sometimes they turn out good, other ones not so good. But when I see a flower it's like a tiny window into the creative heart and mind of God. Such detail, such color, shape, etc. I love that God enjoys making beautiful things, because He is the source of all true beauty! Next time you see a flower, just think, that is a tiny revelation of the beauty of my God!
Here's some to get you started. =)






"Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands." -Psalm 63:3-4

Friday, October 31, 2008

Best Book Ever! (well almost)

I just can't say enough about A.W. Tozer's book, "The Knowledge of the Holy." I've read it at least four times, and every time I pick it up God continues to speak to me through it. Aside from the Bible of course, I think this is the best bok I've ever read! Why is it so great, you might ask? Because it's all about GOD! Tozer had a gift from God for putting into words concepts that are beyond comprehension, let alone expression. In brief chapters he explains such wonderful truths as God's eternality, self-existence, soveriegnty, etc.
Unfortunately fallen human beings are completely and totally self-centered. All of our problems and sin come back to that one issue. This book, unlike any other I've read, not only describes who God is in detail with wonder and awe, but also shows how that knowledge should affect our lives. Through reading (and rereading) this book, my concept of God has been expanded beyond anything I ever expected. As my thoughts & focus have been more and more on God, I've seen Him at work transforming me to be more and more God-centered.
If I had unlimited wealth I would buy a thousand copies of this book and give it to every person I know, encouraging them to read it at least twice a year with an ever-growing hunger to truly KNOW our God. (As it is, I've already passed out several copies.) =) I agree with Tozer's message in his itnroduction:
"The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them. It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is."
I think he wrote this book in the '60's, but its message is still appropriate for us today. The writer of Proverbs knew what He was talking about when he said, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Prov. 9:10)
May we seek to truly know and understand the Holy One so He can transform our lives to be more and more GOD-centered.
To God be the glory!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Confessions of a Contrite Constituent

I don't want to talk about politics on this blog, but I would like to talk about what God has been teaching me during this season of politcal upheaval. I have been surprised by my own attitudes and responses to the people & issues. I have this terrible tendency to think I'm always right (ouch). This past week has been very humbling as, thankfully, the Lord has been faithful to convict me. I have a few things to confess:

1) I have not been blameless in what I've said.
James wrote, "If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check." (James 3:2b) I don't think any politician in this country could claim to 'never be at fault' in what they say. However, neither can the rest of us say that about ourselves (any of you perfect people out there can feel free to contradict me). =) James also said "We all stumble in many ways." (3:2a) Lest I think I'm better than those who are often at fault in what they say...I too cannot control my tongue perfectly. In fact, I can't control it all - apart from the power of the Holy Spirit working in me. This applies to every day and every situation, not just when talking about politics. Somehow it seems more important in that arena, but in reality I should be a person of pure speech at all times.
Lord, may I continually rely on you to set a door over my mouth and to give me compassion and grace for those who are also at fault in what they say.

2) I have not sought truth as I should.
With the media, the adds, the contradictions in statements, etc. it has been very hard to find the truth about politicians and issues. I confess, I got tired of it. I only wanted enough truth to make a decision and be done with it. I didn't want to keep seeking and digging until I knew all the facts about every person & issue. "Proverbs 2:3-5 says, "and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Seeking truth and understanding takes effort and hard work, but it is worth more than earthly treasure.
How easy it is to be content with only a small measure of truth. I may think that's enough, that's all I need, when in reality I may be missing vital information, opening myself up to being easily deceived. Jesus said, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32) Without truth I am walking in darkness. Without a growing pursuit and understanding of truth, I might be easily led astray in many wrong directions.
Seeking truth about politics is important, seeking truth about life and godliness is even more important.
Lord, give me a heart that is passionate for Truth in every context, keep me from being content and complacent with the measure of truth I have, and strengthen me to continually pursue to know and live by the truth, your Truth.

3) I have at times not acted lovingly toward my "enemies" or my fellow believers.
Jesus said, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." (Luke 6:27) I admit I have a hard time loving people who support actions and policies that I know gireve the heart of God. But how can I deny Jesus' words? He loved me when I was His enemy. Now it's my turn to love those enemies, perhaps by praying for them and not having anger or hatred in my heart toward them. Only a perfect God can love like that and give me His love for them.
I think even worse than not loving my enemies has been my lack of loving words to other believers who have different opinions than me. Oh how sad and humbled I have been to see my selfish & fleshly response at times. Praise God for His forgiveness and His grace in others to forgive me.
I believe it is important to stand up for the truth, but it is equally important to walk in love. Paul addressed this issue in Ephesians. "Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is Christ." (Eph. 4:14-15)
This world is in depserate need of truth, but truth without love will have little or no effect.
Lord, teach me to love as You love, both my enemies and my brothers & sisters in Christ. Shine through me that others might see your love in me and be hungry to hear the truth you want me to share.

I don't like talking about politics, never have, probably never will. What is it about politics that can bring out so much ugliness in me? I'm not sure. But I believe that even politics falls under God's promise - "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him..." (Rom. 8:28) He can use it to remind me that I am just a sinner, saved by grace; that apart from God's grace and the power of Christ's life in me, I can do nothing good; and that politicians, no matter how good or bad, cannot save or destroy my soul. Jesus alone is able to save and transform me so that a watching world might see His love and grace displayed.

Thus ends my confessions.
Praise God for His greatness!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Marvelous Grace

God has been teaching me so much about His GRACE! I just finished an excellent book by Jerry Bridges called "Transforming Grace." I highly recomend it! It's about how we are not only saved by Grace, but we must also live by Grace every moment. He brought up a lot of areas where we subconciously live with a 'works' mentality instead of being mindful of Grace. I was surprised how many of them I could relate to in my own life. It was so encouraging to meditate on all the ways God shows His grace...forgiving my sins day after day, giving me opportunities to minister, empowering me to minister by the power of His Spirit, extending kindness that I could never deserve...the list goes on & on. It's like a whole new world opening up, seeing the wonders of God's Grace and all it means in my life!
Wayne Watson has a song called "Grace" that kind of sums it up simply.
"Grace keeps giving me things I don't deserve,
Mercy keeps withholding things I do.
Words that seldom fail me
Leave me looking for the words
To express my gratitude..."
Those words have been playing over & over in my mind ever since I first heard the song, and it's a refrain I think I'll carry with me til I meet Jesus face to face and am transformed to perfection by His GRACE! Halelujah! =)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

one more time...

Well, tomorrow I'm going to yet another new doctor! I heard about this one from someone at the allergy-safe housing in Melbourne. I had a free 10 minute phone consultation with the doctor last week, and he sounded pretty good. So tomorrow we're diving to Sebastian (haven't been to a doctor there yet) to try one more time to find a good doctor. We'll see how it goes. I keep praying God is going to give me a doctor who can really help. Maybe this will be the one.
I've felt pretty awful for the last 2 weeks. It's hard to feel worse again after doing better for a bit, but I am very thankful for the short time of feeling better. Maybe it will come back around again soon. =) I think going to the beach really is a necessary health treatment for me. Strange, but that's what a lot of people with chemical allergies say - live at the beach! I guess it's detoxifying somehow with all that clean salt air. I guess it's a good thing I don't live in Kansas. =)
It's nice to know that God knows exactly what He's doing.
"The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD is on His heavenly throne." (Ps. 11:4a)

Monday, September 29, 2008

silence

I know I haven't updated this in a while, but there's not much new to report. I'm still unable to go home because the house makes me so sick. My poor mom is working really hard to find the problem and get it fixed. We just keep praying God will let me go home soon!
I'm trying not to be overwhelmed with options and decisions right now. I need to find a doctor - out of several not perfect choices, need to start some sauna treatment, have to find the right kind of sauna, need to try some new supplements, decide if the old supplements are helping or harming, etc. It's a good thing I only have to live one day at a time. I don't think I could handle more than that. =)
In the meantime, I'm very thankful that I do have a place to stay. My friends in Orlando just left on a long trip, so I'm 'housesitting' and trying to get used to the silence once again.
When I lived in Mexico by myself, it was really hard to get used to my house being so quiet. I finally learned to enjoy it though. God was able to get my attention and speak to me about a lot of things. So I know the silence is good, it's just different. It's a lot easier to have your life full of people, sound, activities, etc. But I'm reminded of what Jesus said about Mary, who sat at His feet just listening, "May has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42) I don't know if I'd ever choose the silence over the more self-gratifying activity and noise, but I'm glad God knows what I need and He chose it for me. =)

May you hear His voice speaking in the silence today.
"Blessed are all who take refuge in Him." (Ps. 2:12b)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I really enjoyed taking pictures when we were staying at the beach. God's creation is so amazing! Imagine how awesome the New heaven & earth will be. I can't wait to see them! =)





Monday, September 15, 2008

Devising ways...

Last time I posted, I was having difficulty doing anything on my computer. But fortunately for me, I have a friend who devises ways to fix things...so I now have an attached mouse and an attached keyboard for my laptop! As long as I keep the laptop a little bit away from me, I seem to do ok with this new system, praise God! I really would go crazy if I couldn't do email and have some 'social life' online. Pathetic, I know, but that's how life is for me right now. I'm just thankful for the good ways God uses technology. =)
I'm also thankful my Heavenly Father is good at devising ways...
"But God does not take away life; instead, He devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from Him." -2 Samuel 14:14b
Imagine if our communication and fellowship with God were suddenly cut off completely with no way to restore them! I don't know about you, but I wouldn't last very long after that. Thankfully, we don't have to worry about that every happening because God has devised a way for us to be made right wit Him, and He has provided ways for us to always be able to stay in touch with HIm. What a wonderful God!
That's all for now folks. Have a great night. =)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Chopsticks &r Trust

So here's the latest twist in my crazy life -- I'm getting allergic to my computer! Actually, it's a sensitivity to electricity, which a laptop puts out a lot of, unfortunately. At first it just made me tired, but then it started feeling like my fingers were birned, just from touching the keyboard.
I knew this was a possibility, as other patients I talked to had the same problem, in some cases severe. but I was really hoping God was going to keep me from this particular problem, since email is such a lifeline for me. It's just one more thing I ha ve to surrender to Him and trust that He knows what He's doing.
I am thankful that at least I've found some temporary aids. I got a mouse plugged in to my laptop so I don't have to touch the keypad, and I'm sitting jere typing with two pencils. (Let me tell you, it's not easy for this super-speedy typist!) I think maybe chopsticks would be more effective, but since I don't have any, I'm making do with the pencils. My life is never dull. (boring maybe, but not dull.) =)

Today God gave me a neat object lesson. I'm staying with friends while my mom works on making our house more allergy-safe for me. It's so hard not to be able to help her or ro have any control over what's happening there. I just have to trust that she has the strength & wisdom to do what needs to be done. It's the same with God. I can't see what He's doing, but I know He's doing what is best for me because He loves me. And some day I'll go to the Home He has prepared for me and I'll know He never wasted any time or pain I went through.

So here I sit, waiting, trusting, and wishing I had some chopsticks....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Precious Words

Well, I think I'm slowly recovering from my trip back from Dallas. I still don't have energy for doing much of anything, much as I wish I could. It's a daily battle to be content with all my limitations, knowing that God has put me in this place for a divine purpose and reason. I know that in my head, but it's hard to accept it at times when I'd rather be doing 100 other things than laying on the couch.
I love the following poem by Amy Carmicheal. It makes me cry every time I read it - partly because I can identify with it so exactly, and partly because of the tender love God showed her in giving her these precious words. I could never say it better, so here it is: (from "Rose from Brier")

"Thou hast not that, My child, but Thou hast Me,
And am not I alone enough for thee?
I know it all, know how thy heart was set
Upon this joy which is not given yet.

And well I know how through the wistful days
Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways,
As unregarded as a breath of air,
But there in love and longing, always there.

I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow
A rose for others. If it were not so
I would have told thee. Come, then, say to Me
My Lord, My Love, I am content with Thee."


My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

rubix cube

At the moment my life feels like a rubix cube. All the colors are messed up, nothing is in line, etc. I work hard to turn the right corner and voila! one line of colors matches up! Then I turn the next corner and things are jumbled again. So I keep turning corners. Sometimes the colors line up, other times they seem more confused then ever. Some days I wonder, 'Why do I even bother? These colors will never be set straight.' But then God reminds me that the rubix cube is in His hands. I may think I'm the one turning things, but in reality He's the one who's in control. I can only trust that one day He will line up all the colors and everything will be made right.
As I've just illustrated, it seems like every day there's some new direction or change in my situation here. Last week I saw 2 new doctors, both of which had totally different ideas of what's wrong wtih me and what to do. After a misunderstanding over my bloodwork, one of the doctors dropped me. So now I'm down to one doctor again. He wants more bloodwork still. It seems every day I pray for wisdom about what to do with all these decisions. Tomorrow I'm supposed to get the bloodwork done, so tonight I have to decide which blood tests to do and which to leave out. I've also started the allergy skin testing for molds, which hopefully will be helpful once I get on the allergy shots. However, it will take at least 2 more weeks for me to complete the skin testing just for molds. So I have to make decisions about that too.
I've been talking with other patients here, which is also helpful, though at times confusing. The general consensus is that most of the doctors here have actually made people worse. There's only one doctor who so far I've heard good things about, but he's also the one who can see certain things around people (a little scary if you ask me). It's frustrating to see how many people have gone through so much and still not been helped. Most of them end up doing their own research and essentially treating themselves. I really don't want to earn my amateur doctor's degree through extensive study...but maybe that's something I should be doing.... Only God knows. I know He wants me to be willing to do whatever HE wants me to do. It's just a lot easier in theory than practice. =/ I have learned a lot since we've been here, but as far as what the outcome of all this will be, I'm still uncertain. I know my Father knows, and I trust His care even when it doesn't make sense.
Anyway, that's how things stand today, but you never know what will happen, 'As the rubix cube turns...." =)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Time

I spent most of Thursday afternoon talking with another patient here. He's extemely sensitive to anything electrical (thus he can't use a computer, cell phone, etc.), so he spends a lot of time reading. He's very knowledgable about a lot of things related to his health problems. I basically just picked his brain for over an hour. And we talked about other stuff too. It was a good way to spend the afternoon. On Friday & Saturday I didn't feel very well, so I spent too much time watching TV and started to feel like a couch potato. It's funny, but since I've been sick, I've had more time on my hands and less energy to do anything with it, than ever before. It gets pretty frustrating thinking of all the things I'd like to do, but not having the energy to do any of them. So then I just start thinking about all kinds of things, and pretty soon I'm tired of even thinking at all! So the easy way out is to turn the brain off and watch TV. Then, of course, I feel like I've wasted the whole day, and it's time I'll never get back.
Time is such a strange thing. We are bound by it, we measure our lives by it, we can't live sanely without it. How it boggles my mind to think that God exists outside of time. It is His creation (invention), something He controls, not something that controls Him. I can't imagine God ever sitting around doing nothing, just waiting for time to pass. I'm very thankful that God is always at work, always available for me, always good.
I keep praying God will teach me to "make the most of every opportunity" even if the opportunity is to do nothing, wisely.

Tomorrow I'm seeing a new doctor, Dr. Kathrine. I hope she'll be a good listener and that I'll be a good patient. =) I also have my first appointment with Dr. Johnson on Wednesday, so it'll be a busy week. Hopefully in the in between times, I'll spend less time watching TV and more time talking with Jesus. I'm glad He always has time for me! =)
Thanks so much for your prayers!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Attitudes

"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" -Mark 2:17

I read this verse today and felt convicted by the obvious truth in it - that those who are sick need a doctor. After so many years of going to doctors who couldn't help me or even made me worse, I've developed a bit of an attitude toward doctors in general. Yet, the Lord reminded again that I do need a doctor. So I prayed He would lead me to the right one and help me to have a right attitude about it.
And of course, I immediately got an opportunity to put my prayer into practice. Yesterday my mom called a doctor who works part time at the clinic here, but she also has another office about 15 minutes away. She wanted us to come to her office today to see if I'd be ok there. So this morning we drove over. It had some chemical smells in it (carpet, etc.), but it didn't make me nearly as sick as the clinic does. Dr. Katharine was there, so we met her and talked for a few minutes. Unfortunately, in those few minutes she made a very bad impression on me, and my bad attitude quickly returned.
It's very difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't been through a similar experience what it's like to walk in my shoes. (I'm sure that's true of every individual going through hard circumstances.) Some of the doctors I've been to have been sympathetic and kind, even if they couldn't help me. Others have been insensitive, thus adding to my dislike of doctors in general. This doctor made the mistake of asking me if I really want to get well. (I told my mom if one more doctor asks me that I'm going to throw something at them!...well, maybe I won't....) It's just so frustrating to talk to a doctor for 3 minutes and have them imply that I don't really want to get better, that my negative attitude is what's making me feel sick, not an actual physical problem, etc. How can you expect a patient to have confidence in a doctor who thinks like that?
Anyway, after being mad for a while and venting to my mom, the Lord reminded me I needed to forgive. And I need to trust Him that if this is the doctor HE wants me to work with, then He will give me the grace for it. After all, it was kind of her to agree to see me at her other office, and maybe I misjudged her in those few minutes just like she misjudged me. (At least I hope so.)
Sometimes I get so sick of all the frustrations in my small life. I long to be set free from them. But I suppose in essence, that is a selfish attitude, because I know that God can display His grace through them, if I let Him. I definitely need prayer to keep a right attitude, mainly that it's not about ME. It's about God and what He wants to do. And even though doctors are far from perfect, I know God can still use them, if I can keep a good attitude toward them. =) Attitude truly does make all the difference.
So, my mom is typing a long letter to this doctor all about me. Maybe it will help her have a more accurate picture of my situation. She said she'll try to schedule an appointment for me on Monday. In the meantime, I didn't get in to see Dr. Johnson this week, so I'll be seeing him on the 13th after all. In view of that, and Dr. Katharine's comments, it looks like we'll be here for a couple more weeks at least. It's not what I wanted, but I know God's grace is sufficient to change my attitude so that I will want what HE wants. I sure am glad He puts up with me, bad attitudes and all. =)

In the meantime, we've been trying to find things to do here in Dallas so we're not cooped up in the apratment all day. Yesterday we went to see this special mustang sculpture in Irving. It was really amazing! I told my mom I need "horse therapy." =) I'd love to find a place where I could ride a horse for 15 minutes, but I doubt we'll find anything. We'll see. The adventure continues...guided by God's loving hand.
Sweet dreams!

Mustang Sculpture

Yesterday we went to see a mustang sculpture in Irving, TX. It was great! The horses are huge! Hard to get good pictures of all of it though. There's also a museum, but it wasn't open yesterday.



Saturday, August 2, 2008

the maze

We've only been in Dallas one week, and it's been a crazy one! I feel like I'm in a maze. I turn one corner, think I'm getting somewhere, then hit a dead end...go back a few steps, try another route, hit another dead end, etc.
Yesterday was supposed to be my second appointment with the doctor at the clinic. He was going to meet with me in the hallway since I can't go into the offices there. I'd been waiting about 30 minutes when I started smelling something in the hallway too! I ended up sitting in front of the elevator while my mom had the appointment with the doctor. It actually worked out pretty well I think. My mom took notes on everything he said for me. Basically he recommended a few things I could do, but said to try those and then come back to the clinic in a few months and see if I can tolerate being in the offices then. So even though we were discouraged that there's nothing else they can do for me at the clinic at this time, at least we had some other options to try. BUT then as we've been researching the things he recommended, they don't look like good things for me to do.
So then I spent some talking with other patients about different doctors and felt like I could try a couple of them, UNTIL we talked to a few other people and found out more about those doctors. I know all this sounds rather nebulous, it's hard to explain, but apparently several of the doctors people are recommending might be dangerous in a spiritual sense. At least two of them say they can see energy fields or auras around people. That right there scared me enough to say, No thanks! I really had no idea that this kind of thing had creeped into the medical field so much. It's sad too. People aren't getting help from normal doctors, so they're desperate and willing to try anything.
Anyway, I praise the Lord for protecting me so far from actually having an appointment with one of these doctors. It's hard to know what to do next though. I'm still waiting to see if Dr. Johnson can get me in earlier than the 13th. If not, I was hoping to have something else to try this week, but we'll just have to see what the Lord brings up. Even though I feel like I'm in this maze, getting nowhere, I know He is in control and has a purpose even in all the 'wrong turns.'
Yesterday when I was waiting for my mom at the clinic, another patient asked if I was ok. She was very interesting. She said she was a Christian, but she also talked about having a few drinks, and she smelled like cigarette smoke. She was really sweet though and starting encouraging me to have faith. I was very humbled that God would send me such an unlikely encourager. I felt like I should have been the one witnessing to and encouraging her, but there she was reaching out to me. It was just the expression of God's grace that I needed to get my attitude back on track. God is so kind and merciful to us weak creatures. As Psalm 103 says, "He knows that we are dust." Yet His love is higher than the heavens! Praise His name!
So after we left the clinic yesterday I was still feeling pretty toxic. We ended up going out to this park by the lake that we found the other day. It was so nice to breathe fresh air and just watch the water with the Dallas skyline in the background. There's nothing like God's beautiful creation to restore a right perspective on life. =)
I hope when Monday comes and we have to make more decisions about what to do, that I'll remember that the one who takes care of the birds (and the squirrels) is taking care of me too.
Thanks for your prayers!
Keep following Him through the maze. =)
-Joanna

Dallas Pictures

Here's some pix from our time so far in Dallas.



Cool house, eh?



My new friend. =)




We found a nice park by a lake.




Our 'allergy-safe' appartment.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another day...

Today I went back to the clinic for more allergy testing. They had to do it in the hallway because I was determined not to go into the office where I get so sick. I guess it's pretty amazing that they even consented to do that because apparently it's a risk legally. Anyway, the nurse tried 4 different doses of histamine on my arm, but they all caused symptoms, (sleepy, headache, dizzy, etc.) I finally felt too awful to do anymore. So we had to quit even though they didn't find the right antigen dose for me.
While I was sitting there, I talked with a lady from Italy. She said it took them a long time to find the right dose of histamine for her too. She really needs it because she has anaplaxis (I think that's like when your throat closes & you can't breathe). The histamine shot she takes is kind of like benedryl only more powerful I think. That's why they always test for it first. Anyway, this lady came to the clinic 3 years ago and she's still there! She actually got much worse at first because they tried to test for too many things and she crashed. I just couldn't believe she's stayed here for 3 years and is only a little better, not well enough to go back to Italy. Her story was so sad, I kind of felt like my complaints were minor in comparison. It's really shocking how many people from all over the world are suffering with environmental illness. I guess it's largely because our world has become so toxic. I can't wait for heaven...no pesticides, no exhaust fumes, no cigarette smoke...it will be the perfect environment! That's starting to mean a whole lot more to me now than it used to.
Anyway, tomorrow I'm going back for an appointment with the dr at the clinic. Some of my bloodwork is back, so we'll see what he has to say. I don't know if there are any other treatmetns he can recommend right now or not. I just hope & pray that I'll be able to communicate what I need to and that he won't get upset with me. (In the interest of self-preservation, I don't think I'm a very obliging patient sometimes.) Today we drove over to Dr. Johnson's office so I could check it out. I seemed to do fine in there, praise God. So now we're just praying that he'll have a cancellation so I can get in before the 13th. God knows what is best though. I trust He will show us what to do in the meantime. My mom says I should see this as an adventure. I confess, that perspective is escaping me at the moment, but I know with God ALL things are possible! Especially with so many great people praying for me. =)
Well, as my mom always says, today is gone, today was fun (that's what she says, even when it wasn't fun), tomorrow is another one.
Until tomorrow, rest in peace.
-Joanna

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

expectations

Well, yesterday was not a good day. I went for allergy testing and got VERY sick from the offices there. I couldn't even stay in the testing room for a minute. They finally had to do my testing in the hallway. By the time they got to me I was wiped out, so they only tested for one thing. I told the nurse I was taking today off and I'd be back on Thursday.
It's very discouraging to get so sick at the place where they are supposed to be helping me. Yet I know God is in control of these details. Sometimes I wish I knew what He was trying to do, but as the song goes, "then I'd never have reason to use my faith." I definitely need prayer for continued confidence in Him.
My mom was so sweet last night, she rented Pride & Prejudice for us to watch! It's such a good movie, always cheers me up. =) Today we went driving around town just to get out of the apartment (which is also now bothering my allergies a little). I took pictures of some interesting houses around here. Some of them look like mini-castles. I'm not sure I'd want to live in one, but they're fun to look at.
So tomorrow I'm going back to the clinic. I hope it will go ok. I don't really know what to expect. I prayed before coming up here that God would help me not have expectations, because I knew it might be a lot worse than I was hoping. However, I never even considered the possibility that just being in the clinic offices would make me worse! Funny, no matter how much you think you're prepared, God can always have something completely unexpected in store. I just hope He has some unexpected wonderful results in store too! But if not, it's ok. I know He sees the whole picture, while I have only one small puzzle piece. Someday I'll see the whole picture too.
Thanks for your prayers!

Monday, July 28, 2008

First Day

Today was my first day at the clinic. What a day! I'm exhausted. First we waited for about 30 minutes after I gave them all my paperwork. (Yesterday my mom and I spent a couple of hours filling out all the papers they gave me and putting together all my recent tests and records.) Then they took me to into the dr's office, and I got sick right away from a smell in there, maybe from their air filters, I'm not sure. So they moved me to another office and we waited another 30 minutes. Then the dr finally came, and I gave him my whole medical history. That took about 45 minutes. Then he left, and we talked with his assistant about what kinds of tests to order. Then that guy left and we talked with the patient coordinator about some more stuff. It was almost 1:00 when we left.
My mom and I were both on information overload. We finally decided which tests to do. (We're trying to priotize because they all cost a lot.) So about 3:00 we went back to the clinic and they drew a bunch of blood. Praise God, the lady got me on the first stick! I hope those tests will be helpful. It's so hard to know what's really essential and what's just stuff they like to do. I think the doctor was pretty sensitive about our limited finances, but they still always think some things are necessary when they really aren't vital.
Anyway, tomorrow I'm going to get some skin testing done (for a few allergens). They want to test for a lot of things, but I don't know if my immune system can handle that, so we'll just take it slow and see. The big problem at the moment is that I'm reacting to the air in the office. The patient coordinator didn't seem to think they could put me in a different place for the testing. So who knows what will happen tomorrow. We're just praying that the Lord will take care of it somehow. I was hoping these people would be more understanding about someone as sensitive as me, but so far they haven't seemed to be. Please keep praying for wisdom and for God's protection from tests or treatments that would be bad for me.
I confess I've been slightly grumpy the last two days, probably from not sleeping well and not being able to eat my normal foods. Still, I'm trying to remind myself that all of this is not about ME! It's about God and what He wants to do and how He wants to glorify Himself. I'm so thankful for all of the people who are praying for me! I definitely won't be able to keep a godly perspective without lots of prayer support.
Speaking of perspective, we met a lady here who's had an incredibly hard life. (She's been sick since she was born. She's now in her 40's and taking care of her terminally ill father by herself.) She shared a little of her story with us and my heart went out to her. It didn't sound like she had much of a support group or encouraging friends either. It made me so thankful for all the wonderful people praying for me, encouraging me, supporting me, etc. Please pray that we can be a blessing to this dear lady while we're here.
So one day down, many more to go. As my sister reminded me, I'm here for a reason. Hopefully I can hold onto that through the difficulties, knowing I'm under God's care.
"Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care." -Psalm 95:6-7

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Pictures

Ok, that one was a test, but it finally worked, yeah! Maybe now I can post some more pictures. I still can't figure out how to post a profile pic, but that's ok. I still look the same as I did 6 years ago (well, maybe the same as I did 10 years ago). =) As a wise child once told me, when I'm 82 I'll only look like I'm 72! Something to look forward to I guess. =)
Have a joyful day!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

peace in stress

"When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul." -Psalm 94:18-19

I love these verses! And I love God's grace! It continues to amaze me how He can give consolation, joy, peace, etc. in the midst of anxious times.
Our trip from FL to Dallas wasn't too bad until we stopped and tried to find a hotel. Every time I went into one of the hotel rooms, I immediately starting feeling sick and had to leave. After about the third time, I had to take some benedryl. My poor mom was trying to figure out what to do. She and Mary Ann were so tired, but we couldn't find a place to stay that was safe for me. Amazingly, through it all, I wasn't stressed out. I kept praying we'd be able to find a place, but we never did. Even that was ok. God gave the ladies strength to keep driving, and I was able to sleep most of the night while they drove. God gave me such peace and CONFIDENCCE that He was taking care of us. It was wonderful to go through a stressful time like that and not really feel stressed out. Praise God! I'm sure it was because of so many people praying for us. What a blessing it is to have God's consolation through His Spirit, but also through His PEOPLE.

This place where I'm staying in Dallas is great! It's all tile, only metal shelves, no chemicals, carpet, mold, etc. I hope it will be a restful place even while I'm going through all the stress of tests, treatment, etc. Although with cable TV, it's going to take some discipline not to just be a cough potato. I'm sure God's grace is sufficient for that too. =)

Ok, all for today. Oh, I tried to post pictures on here but I can't get it to work. Anyone with suggestions? Thanks.
Grace & peace to you.
-Joanna

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Starting and Leaving

Hello! I've finally joined the world of technologically savvy people. I'm starting this new adventure of blogging! I hope I'll be able to keep it up and not be too boring to any who dare to read it. =)
I'm also leaving--leaving FL that is. Tomorrow my mom, Mary Ann (from my church), and I leave on our roadtrip to Dallas. That's when another adventure will start--going to a special clinic for people with serious allergies and health problems. I hope and pray they will be able to help me make some progress. The Lord knows. I am following where He leads, trusting that whatever happens, He is doing what is best for me.
And so with that, I will leave you and sign off. Until next time, may you rest in the infinite love of God.
-Joanna