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