Patterns of Rest

A Response to Genesis Chapter 1

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Even though God could have created the heavens and the earth (along with all of their details and inhabitants) in one day, He stopped after a few tasks each day. ( Genesis 1)

On the seventh day, after finishing the creation the heavens and the earth, God rested. He blessed this day and made it holy. (Genesis 2:1-3)

I can only assume that God was modeling for us, not only rest on the Sabbath, but rest as a part of each day.
He worked at a reasonable pace that wouldn’t lead to burn-out. Not for the purpose of avoiding burn-out for himself, because God has no limits, but because He knows that we do.
We are limited in nature, so in His kindness, God modeled a healthy work pace for us from the very beginning.
He knows that leaving a margin for rest in each day is something that can sustain us, if we choose to follow His example.

How often do you feel in a hurry, or stressed out? I know that I have a hard time sleeping at times because of the endless to-do list that is circulating through my mind.

What if we weren’t in a hurry, feeling immense pressure, or stressed out?
I know what you might be thinking:
“Isn’t it impossible to live that way- to avoid heavy stress and pressure?”

Yes, it is impossible to avoid the temporary feeling of stress, and the pressure that is around us will always be there.
But yes, it is also possible to surrender our stress to our Creator. To ask Him to hold the heaviness and to lift the pressure. We CAN be empowered by His strength and His peace that passes all understanding.
Because when we belong to Him, the pressure is off. All of the glory is His, anyway. All of my success is because of His provision in my life. He gives me the strength that I need. The peace that I need. The power to choose joy and gratitude. The perseverance to push through another day. He is my source of strength, and I am weak on my own. But that’s okay, because when I am weak, He is strong. He crowns me with His strength. Weakness is my honor because His strength is my privilege.

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We no longer have to be slaves to stress or burnout when we live a surrendered life, and follow the example of our Father.

So take a deep breath, talk to God about what is on your mind, and ask for the peace and strength that you need to press forward. Follow Him in His example of rest, trust Him to sustain you, and watch how this act of surrender changes your life.

 

Jesus Still Heals

This blog post was originally written on 9/30/18 and shared to my Facebook. I decided that it belongs on my blog! 

One year ago today, God did a miracle in my life. I have shared my story with many people on an individual basis this year, but it’s time to share with everyone.

If you have known me for longer than a year, you know about my struggle with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis is the stomach condition (literally translated to stomach paralysis) that caused my struggle to eat/inability to eat at times, months on TPN (IV nutrition), NJ feeding tubes in 2015 and 2017, 4 Botox injection treatments(over the course of 2 years) to the pylorus of my stomach under anesthesia, malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, several ER visits, and hospital admissions.

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It caused unrelenting abdominal pain and nausea. It was a fight to maintain weight and nutritional status; I was often weak and lethargic. It only worsened my other health problems, causing far more fainting episodes than I would have otherwise.
In 2015, when I was admitted to the hospital and had a feeding tube placed for the first time, my potassium levels were critically low, my EKG was abnormal and I was at risk for a heart attack. I’ll never forget having a defibrillator on my hospital bed and a crash cart nearby, in case my heart were to stop.

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Beginning in August 2017, God began to work on my heart and lead me to place my hope in Him for healing. Over the years of chronic illness, I had let go of this hope in an attempt to protect my heart, but I gradually learned that God is the only one that I don’t have to protect my heart from. He spoke to me through other people and through the Holy Spirit, revealing that I will be fully healed and gently leading me to ask Him for healing.

At the end of September 2017 I had been struggling severely again with gastroparesis for a month, following 2 months of stability thanks to medication changes. It was so difficult to face such a deep level of struggle with nutrition after I thought that an answer had finally been found. We were out of options other than a gastric pacemaker (which doesn’t have a high success rate) or a J tube (surgical feeding tube going into the intestines). Since my intestines also had impaired function, neither option would offer much relief for me, but would simply keep me nourished. I was desperate for relief.

The last weekend of September, I had planned to go to Breakaway-a retreat put on by UTSA Chi Alpha. It includes worship, sermons, an outdoor party, workshops, baptisms, and time with friends. I knew from going in 2016 that I didn’t want to miss it. I was so sick, and it didn’t make sense to go but I knew in my heart that something was there for me that I didn’t want to miss. I expected to be encouraged and for God to move in my life, but I had no idea the extent of what would happen that weekend.

Fast forward to halfway through the conference:
It was Saturday morning and I had spent the previous night throwing up and trying not to scream in pain(to avoid scaring my friends who were sleeping over). I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything other than Sprite or Jello, and even that was nauseating. I felt weak and drained of energy.
During my second Breakout session, I heard a story eerily similar to mine. A daughter of a missionary couple (who spoke at the conference) also had a severe digestive disease. Her story ended in a miracle-God restored her in a way that doctors couldn’t and she is healthy today.
I left that room feeling 100% broken and 100% hopeful at the same time. It was an uncomfortable feeling. The ugly part of my heart felt hurt that I had to hear such a beautiful story in the middle of my pain, but I was also filled with so much hope. I knew that God could do the impossible but hearing a story so similar to mine really hit close to home.

I’m so thankful that God placed the right people with me in that moment (Hallie and Markell Simmons). These dear friends listened to me as I shared my heart and cried, and prayed with me when I said that it was the only thing that I wanted to do in that moment. We prayed together for my healing, and they talked with me about the will of God, His plan for my life, His ability to heal me and my expectation of whether or not He would. The Bible says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If Jesus was healing people of their diseases 2000 years ago, He is still our healer today.

So much of the confusion in my heart disappeared, and with my belief that Jesus would heal me (not just that he might) we all prayed again.

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I was encouraged to go and eat lunch with everyone else as a step of faith. It was honestly terrifying-tears streamed down my face as I ate pizza with my small group. I learned that God doesn’t mind if we do it afraid-just as long as we obey. As time passed and I didn’t feel the intense pain and nausea that I normally would after eating, it became more and more real to me that God had healed my digestive system. 2 hours later, Hallie and I rejoiced together and were so shocked and amazed that I felt no pain, no nausea and my stomach wasn’t distended. That day, I went off of 7 medications for the function of my digestive tract+the management of gastroparesis symptoms. By the grace of God, I continued to have a perfectly working stomach and I experienced no withdrawal from any of those medications.

It has been a year, and I haven’t relapsed or needed medications to eat, or had a single trip to the ER or hospital for my stomach. On September 30, 2017 Jesus healed me from gastroparesis and intestinal dysmotility.

“…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

I’ve had a year without worrying about being able to eat a meal. A year of eating birthday cake, fully enjoying Thanksgiving for the first time in years, and eating meals with friends and family-no longer feeling left out. A year without the fear of malnutrition, electrolyte imbalance or severe weight loss. A year of reflecting on the kindness of God. A year of getting to share my miracle story with anyone willing to listen. The blessings from this miracle are countless.
I still believe that God is going to fully heal me, but I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for what He has already done. He has taught me to patiently wait for His timing. He gives good gifts to His children at the perfect time.

Thank you, Jesus for restoring function my digestive system in a way that doctors couldn’t. But most of all, thank you for restoring my hope.

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Wondering is Wandering

“Wondering is wandering.” 

God spoke this to me a week ago, in the middle of fighting sleep for the purpose of digging for my own medical answers. I was so exhausted, but I was desperate to know what has been going on with my body, so I forced myself to stay awake as I scoured the internet for answers. (Not WebMD! 😂 Reputable sources. 😊 )

He spoke these words so clearly to my heart, that I knew it would be disobedience to keep searching. I immediately stopped what I was doing, turned out my light and let myself rest. He spoke those same words to me in the morning, prompted me to think about it some more, and to write.

 How many times do we give a need to God, believe that He will come through, but still try to find a way to answer our own prayer? Or say that we trust God but then spend a significant amount of time wondering how and when our need will be met? 

Complete trust should lead to complete rest. However, rest is not laziness.

For instance, if you pray for a job, it makes perfect sense to fill out applications and to schedule interviews. What doesn’t make sense is to waste precious time sitting around wondering which job you will get and how long it will take before you get an offer. 

Appropriate, responsible action is necessary. But the moment that we start dwelling and wondering, is the moment that we start wandering from the rest that God wants us to have in Him. 

True rest is placing our need in God’s hands, along with our worries about that need. Sometimes it’s necessary to continually hand over our concern, as the human mind finds concerns often. 

I have found peace by handing every worry to Jesus, one by one, as they present themselves in my mind. I ask him to carry what burdens me, and I ask him to be my peace and to be with me during my day. 

This is how I can rest, despite the chaos that has overtaken my body. 

Just like a good father can be trusted to provide for the needs of his children, God can be trusted to provide for our needs. 

What is a need in your life that you have been praying for? Take a moment to consider if you are wandering or fully resting. Your heavenly Father wants you to rest in Him, even as you wait.

“And my God will supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:19

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”  Matthew 6:25-30

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”  Psalm 37:7 

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Feb 21, 2018

Today was wonderful!  I was showered with so much love and kindness by friends and family! I received 2 care packages in the mail today. One, from Hailey at Bundles of Hope (a nonprofit that sends packages to chronically ill teens/young adults). The other was a box full of sunshine  that was sent by my aunt, uncle, grandma and cousins! Both packages contained such sweet cards filled with beautiful words of encouragement and love! Just being thought of by Hailey and by my family was more than enough. I was already smiling and so encouraged!  But both packages were filled with so many cute and fun things! I kept saying “Wow!” when I read beautiful words, and realized the generosity being shown towards me, and also said “It feels like my birthday!”. My sweet aunt and grandma even picked out 2 new shirts for me!  One is inspired by one of my favorite Bible verses (Hebrews 6:19).
From start to finish, God also directed my path today. I woke up struggling to make it to class, but he gave me the courage to press on and the strength to make it through! I came across so many kind people who were eager to help me today. I saw two sweet classmates from last semester, and really enjoyed getting to talk with them. This evening, I had an amazing time with my small group, studying the Bible and having beautiful heart-to-heart conversations.
It really feels like God poured out His love on me today. Something that I have learned through my time in Chi Alpha (a Christian campus ministry) is that people are God’s method. He directs our paths and if we are obedient to love others (as He calls us to), then we get to be an extension of His love. Thank you, Hailey and Aunt Annie (and the Tucker family+Maw Maw) for taking the time to love me!  Thank you to each person who served me today. Thank you to each girl in my small group, you always welcome me with open arms. Thank you, Jesus for giving me such a beautiful day. 

Feb 16, 2018

18511_10200662646670261_568122433_nIt’s a little hard to wrap my mind around the fact that I was skiing in the mountains 5 years ago today. I remember that trip to Colorado, and loved that experience! The sudden changes in my health that began in October of 2013 took me from being athletic and physically strong, to inactive and physically weak. I went from a running and dancing to having a hard time sitting up for a while or standing, and needing a wheelchair.

According to doctors, there’s no expectation of a full recovery for me. They have even been hesitant to guarantee improvement, although that’s what they want for me. I appreciate all that my doctors have done and are doing to help me to have a better quality of life.
But my hope is not in science, or in doctors. I know that I serve a God who still performs miracles today. I know that his word is true, and in the Bible it says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) The s
ame Jesus that healed so many people during his time on earth sees my situation and is walking with me through it. I believe that my healing is coming, and that His timing is perfect.

He has already healed me from one of my illnesses in a miraculous way (this happened a few months ago, story to come soon!), and I trust that what God starts, He will finish.

Looking at this picture easily brings mixed emotions, but I am choosing to focus on the hope that there is for my future! One day, I will be healthy and physically strong again, and I look forward to serving and loving God and people with my actions, to a greater extent!  Who knows, you might even catch me skiing down a mountain 

Feb 9, 2018

27657268_1858506854220982_2551978532874531515_nThe past month has been very difficult with my health. Every day has been an exhausting battle, and the moments of slight relief have been brief.
This month, I have grown closer to Jesus and have gotten to experience His kindness, compassion and love in deeper ways. He has flooded my room with peace. He has comforted me, listened to me and carried me through painful hours and days. He has helped me to see the good in every day. I am reminded once again what a faithful friend He is, during seasons of suffering and prosperity.
I keep referring to this increase in symptoms+severity as a “speed bump” because I know that there will be better days. 

I’m reaching out to ask for prayer, because prayer is powerful.
If you have the time, please also comment with your favorite Bible verse, encouraging quotes or uplifting songs. (Or anything that has encouraged you recently!) I want to continue to fill my heart with truth and hope!

A Much-Overdue Update, Good News, and What God Has Been Teaching Me

Hello, family and friends. It’s been a long time since I have updated you on my health, and I realize that I have such a loving and supportive community who cares about these updates. So here I am, sitting down to type out a much-overdue update. There is a significant piece of good news, so you may want to read this! 

(Serious props to you if you read every word-it will likely be long since I have waited too long to share an update.)

Back in March, I was on TPN(total parenteral nutrition), receiving all of my nutrients in IV form through my PICC line. (I had been on it for a month at this point) My gastroparesis (stomach paralysis) was in a very bad spot, my stomach and intestines would hardly move at all. I was incredibly weak, in constant abdominal pain and struggling with nausea daily. Any time I attempted to eat anything, I would experience unbearable pain/nausea and my stomach would swell/become distended and make me look as if I were pregnant. Occasionally, I would vomit undigested food. Even drinking small amounts would make me feel so ill. 

I was very fatigued, was dealing with an increase in my fainting episodes and my vitals were never stable. I slept more than I was awake, for the most part. TPN had started to cause complications, and I ended up in the emergency room with classic gallbladder symptoms, and experienced several more of these attacks. My liver enzymes had also started to elevate (bad news). I had a hard time trying to attend any of my classes or fieldwork regularly, and rarely got through the assigned readings/coursework on time. 

Watching online services that Gateway (my church) streamed was my source of encouragement, as the weekends were needed for complete physical rest. My body tended to get its short burst of slight energy in the evenings, so attending Chi Alpha (a Christian campus ministry) and going to small group when I was able to during the week encouraged me greatly. No matter how sick I was, my spirit longed to be in the presence of Jesus with fellow believers, so I chose to push my body for the sake of my spirit. 

Just as all of this was happening, I received a call from my insurance company stating that my GI doctor (who I trust and had been with for nearly 3 years) was no longer contracted with them after he switched practices-meaning that I could no longer see him. 

This was the man who had compassionately listened to me at each office visit, and treated me like a person rather than a number. He had taken care of me every single time that my stomach ceased to do its job. For 2 years, every 6 months I would go under anesthesia and he would be in the operating room, injecting my stomach with what it needed to be semi-functional. When this stopped working, he showed compassion and concern, but placed me on artificial nutrition so that I could continue to live. I trusted this man with my life, and it felt like the floor dropped from beneath me when I found out that I was losing him from my medical team. This felt like the worst thing that could be happening at this moment. But God knew what He was doing. 

Understandably, I was scared and uncertain of what was to come. I asked for the girls in my small group to pray for God to lead me to a doctor who was kind and knowledgable about my illnesses. We prayed together for his wisdom, and for me to find this doctor sooner rather than later. But we trusted the Lord and His timing.

I was given a grace period for my TPN prescription to still be written by my previous doctor, but I began the search for a new GI doctor. I asked my friends on Facebook about gastroenterologists that they would personally recommend, and did extensive research on each recommended physician. Ultimately, my previous GI doctor referred me to one of his colleagues and I trusted his judgement. 

On April 12, I saw this new doctor. Immediately, he stated that he didn’t want me to be on TPN any longer than I had to be. I knew from a previous flare of my illness when I was away at Texas Tech, that another option (and a safer one) was a feeding tube. We discussed this option, but he was adamant about trying a medication that wasn’t originally intended for gastroparesis patients but had shown promising results in research studies. If we used it in conjunction with a drug commonly used to treat my condition, this new doctor was convinced that I would significantly improve. 

Up until this point, I thought I had tried (and failed) every medication option for my condition. I thought that the only options left were surgical, either a permanent feeding tube in my abdomen or surgery to cut part of my stomach in an attempt to get it to digest by gravity. Neither of these surgeries were guaranteed to improve my quality of life or to make me better, and could cause their own complications. 

To make this story shorter, I will try to summarize the events from April until now. I had (what we thought was) a reaction to this promising drug, when I tried it on an outpatient basis. I was told to immediately stop it. (It turned out to be an interaction with another one of my meds) I then was given an NJ feeding tube that skipped my stomach and went to my small intestine (just like the one that I had in 2015) and was placed on tube feeds. It was a much safer form of nutrition than TPN, but still not ideal. Even tube feeds made me feel ill, although not as bad as eating made me feel. I had learned to be content, but this new doctor of mine was not satisfied with me being tube-fed. He had a determination like I had never seen before. 

At one of my follow-up appointments, he said that his new plan was to admit me to the hospital to re-trial the medication that could help me. I was understandably concerned, considering that I had reacted adversely to this same med just a few weeks prior. He reassured me, saying that this is why I would be inpatient, to be closely monitored.

 I then spent 9 days inpatient for what was supposed to be a 3-4 day trial. (My body had other plans) My doctor had my feeding tube removed on day 1, which scared me because we had no clue if this new treatment option was going to pan out. He just kept telling me that it would work, because he had seen it work for several of his patients before me. 

We were pleasantly surprised when I no longer reacted to this new med, once the med that we suspected an interaction with was removed from my treatment plan. 

Over the course of that hospital admission, I received many IV infusions of a medication to promote stomach/intestinal motility, countless bags of IV fluids with dextrose and potassium to keep my blood sugar from tanking and my heart functioning as it should, bags of normal saline to keep my blood pressure from plummeting and many doses of pain and anti-nausea meds to keep me comfortable as I attempted to gradually eat more than I had in months. A dietician visited me each day, advising me on foods/liquids to try and keeping track of the calories/nutrition that I consumed.

Things got worse before they got better. Every time I attempted to eat, I was still miserably ill. The functioning of my intestines had slowed to a near halt, and gave us a scare. By the end of my hospital admission, I had lost most of the weight that I had restored on TPN/tube feeds despite my best attempts to eat. My other main chronic illness had flared up, and caused my heart to race out of control despite being on medication to control it. I wasn’t able to sit up for longer than a few minutes, and crossing a room felt like climbing a mountain. 

When it seemed that my doctor wasn’t hearing my concerns and he refused to discuss an alternate plan, telling me to give this plan some more time, I was terrified. All that I could think was “Does he not see that I am getting sicker right in front of him? Is this man crazy for believing in “Plan A” so adamantly? What happens if this doesn’t work?”

I sobbed when he left the room, I felt deep sadness, fear and at the same time, felt anger rising up in my chest(mainly anger at my body for failing so much). I couldn’t help but scream. I remember watching my mom cry too, because she could see the pain that I was going through, physically and in that moment, emotionally. She and I were worn from battle. A battle our family didn’t choose but one that we fought every day for the past few years. 

A few days later, I was released from the hospital, having made minimal improvements. Thankfully, I was able to drink enough to keep myself minimally hydrated. I was able to snack a little and I had a little less pain and nausea but I was still so weak and sick. 

I spent the month of May in and out of doctor appointments, medical testing and physical therapy but mainly spent the time resting at home. By the end of the month, I had consistently worked up to eating the bare minimum of what my body needed in a day. The medicine that I had started in the hospital was helping to block my pain/nausea signals and made eating more bearable.

It took the months of May and June to gain back what little strength I originally had before that hospital stay. In the beginning of June, we took a trip to Florida, but I didn’t feel like myself and I mainly spent the trip sleeping or resting in bed. I made it to the beach, and loved the view but I was only able to lay under the beach umbrella, because of how I physically felt. We needed to take a trip to the emergency room in the middle of the night at one point for extreme abdominal pain.

When we got home from our vacation, the second new medication that was part of my new treatment plan had arrived. When both of these medicines had been in my system as a team for about a week, I noticed a more significant difference. Eating enough to fuel my body finally stopped feeling like a battle.

When my gastric emptying scan (a test used to assess stomach function) was repeated, it indicated a slight improvement from previous testing. The numbers were still poor enough to diagnose me with gastroparesis, even while on medication, but there was a change in the positive direction. Any improvement felt like relief to my body, and between the medicine that gets my paralyzed stomach to move a little and the medicine that blocks out the pain and nausea signals coming from my stomach, I was in a much better place. 

My GI doctor and I chose to treat symptoms rather than numbers, so as long as my symptoms are under control we will be sticking with our current plan. 

When I was still in a waiting season and before I had a treatment plan that worked for my stomach, I took a step of faith and ate a meal in my kitchen. It was against all logic, but I felt like God was asking me to be obedient in that. I had spent a good amount of time in worship, praising His name, and praying for restoration in my body.  I opened up my Bible, hoping to be lead to a meaningful verse because this was no ordinary evening. I landed in Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, and my eyes fell on these verses: 

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. I know that whatever God does, It shall be forever. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it. God does it, that men should fear before Him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14) 

God knew that the thing burdening my heart the most was not my inability to eat, but my inability to work efficiently because of illness. I felt as though I was losing my purpose. This verse stood out to me as a promise that I will be able to eat, drink, and find satisfaction in my work. That very night, I felt no pain or other symptoms after eating. I truly believed that I had been healed, right then and there. I even called my parents and my friend Hallie(who is my small group leader) to rejoice and told them about what had happened. 

You can imagine my surprise when, the next morning, after I attempted to eat breakfast, all of my symptoms came rushing back with a vengeance. I still don’t understand to this day, why the improvement that I felt that night was so fleeting, or why the Lord didn’t want to be the sole reason for my improvement. Perhaps it was meant to provide strength for my soul to keep pressing on. I know that it gave me hope to hold onto. The enemy kept trying to tell me “God didn’t really say that/promise that/mean that”, and He kept trying to make me doubt that I even felt better for those few hours. It was confusing for my heart to go through, but I chose to take that experience as a promise from God that I would see significant improvement or healing in my future. Less than a month later, our new treatment plan and the path to significant improvement began. He who promised is faithful. 

At the end of June, I celebrated my 22nd birthday with family and with friends. I reflected on the past year of my life, on both the struggles and the joyful moments. I enjoyed wonderful food and felt incredibly grateful to be able to eat it.  I made some great memories too! God gave me two days in which I felt better than I have in a while. I was able to go out for a special lunch, have a great home-cooked dinner and game night with family and two of my close friends, and go to the movies with my brother. The next day, I attended my birthday party with friends. I felt so loved, especially because of the quality time that I had and the words of encouragement that were poured over me. 

God’s presence and provision has really been evident in my life over the past year. There are so many prayers that He has answered in tangible ways, from my insurance approving several referrals that I needed in a timely fashion, to providing a new doctor, and providing my SmartDrive through the loving community that surrounds me. Many intangible prayers were answered as well. He has provided me with peace that only He can give during some of the scariest days of my life. He has been with me when I felt alone, and I have felt His presence. He has seen every one of my tears and has brought comfort to my heart. He has given me joy when the world says that there’s no reason why I should still be smiling. 

So, where am I now? (health-wise)

My stomach is currently in a very manageable place, so I only occasionally experience mild/moderate levels of pain and nausea. Most days, my stomach feels fine. I have gained back the weight that I had lost, and I feel a little stronger. 

As for the rest of my health, it remains the same for now.

My other illnesses are still very much affecting my every day life and my level of functionality. I struggle with light-headedness, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, cognitive issues, temperature regulation issues, palpitations, low blood pressure, high heart rate, headaches, migraines, various types of pain, joint instability, etc. on a daily basis. 

I still struggle to sit upright for extended periods of time, and I still can’t stand or walk very far so I require the use of my wheelchair. I still have my PICC line, and receive IV fluids twice a week to compensate for my low blood volume. Although they are less frequent, I still have fainting episodes. Any activity(such as attending class, doing laundry, cooking etc.) makes me feel more symptomatic. But God is still on the throne and I’m not alone as I walk through this.

My cardiologist and I have tried our best at managing my case over the past 3 years(+). We have tried countless medications, lifestyle adaptations and treatment options. Nothing that we have tried has yielded significant results. He is a kind and brilliant man, but my body is a bit of a puzzle. 

I am waiting to see one of the best doctors in the nation for my condition after making it to the top of his wait list, and praying/believing for insurance to make a decision in my favor. I am also on the wait list for a local specialist, and have insurance approval but won’t likely see that doctor until March. 

But life doesn’t wait, and it’s worth participating in now. 

For that reason, I chose to remain in school and press on towards my degree. I am living near UTSA campus with three girls who are in my small group through Chi Alpha, and am enjoying living in fellowship. The Lord spoke to my heart, promising His strength to rely on and not my own. Realistically, I shouldn’t be able to do this, but with Him I know that I can. 

My dad and I recently had a discussion and we likened my step of faith in going back to school, to Moses’ faith when he allowed God to lead him towards the Red Sea while being chased by an army (though he knew the geography of Egypt well because of growing up in the royal household). He was being led towards what looked like a dead end in the midst of danger, but He trusted God and His plan. I want to be faithful in trusting God’s hand to lead me on the path that I should be walking, so I followed Him when he answered my prayer in giving me direction towards the decision that I should make. I have my illnesses chasing behind me, and what looks like a dead end before me, as each semester previously has been such an uphill battle that leaves me worn. But He calls us to trust Him. 

I want to continue to be equipped to be the best teacher that I can be one day, to serve my students in love. Whether I’m able to have my own classroom, or whether I work as a tutor.

Our lives are always safe in the hands of God. His hands are the most capable hands. He is always faithful and never failing. What appears to be the best door (according to our plan) closing, may actually be an even better door (according to His plan) opening. 

I thought that I was losing the best thing for my well-being when I lost my trusted doctor, but God knew what was on the other side. He heard and honored my prayers for His will to be done, as well as the prayers of my family and friends, asking for my health to improve. Only He knew that there was another doctor with a deeper knowledge of how to treat me and how to approach my case. What felt like a slap in the face, an insult to injury, an unjustified change in an already turbulent time, was the door to my better future opening. I gained a piece of my health back, and that is priceless.

My friends, try to remember my story the next time that you see a door slamming shut in your life. Your story is not over. You have a Heavenly Father that loves you, and if He needs to close a good door in order to open a door that is better for your well-being, or that better fulfills His plan for your life, then so be it. He is worthy of our trust because He seeks the highest good for those whom He loves. 

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Hope Remains

3 years ago today, I was in the hospital and paralyzed from the waist down. My life had changed overnight, literally. I had a 33% chance to fully recover from the paralysis. Little did I know that I would be in the hospital and inpatient rehab for 19 days, and that I would go to physical therapy 3 times a week for months once released. Little did I know that on day 100, I would briefly stand on my own two legs for a few seconds, though they were wobbly. After about 4 months, my leg strength was nearly back to where it was, and I walked unassisted.

I had already been through 8 months of being chronically ill before this, but this was a time that God’s presence was made known even more to me, and when I learned that even in the darkest days, He is with me. I am beyond thankful that I am able to stand on my own two feet today, though it may not be possible for longer than a few minutes (because of entirely seperate issues). I am thankful that for this year’s trip to the beach, that I felt the sand beneath my feet, rather than having to be carried once we reached the sand. God is so good. He is good no matter what, but I am thankful that His plan wasn’t for me to stay in that physical state. If you are facing a trial today, or are in a place that feels hopeless, there is hope. If you need prayer today (or any day), please feel free to reach out to me.

I feel like I’m preaching to myself, too. Things are harder than they were this time last year and I find myself longing for certain abilities, but He is God and I am not. He sees the desires of our hearts, and is faithful in providing our every need.

“Just Right”

Whenever I have a guest coming over, I tend to straighten things and make things look “just right”.

Recently, when going through this frenzy, I heard Jesus speak to my heart in the stillest, most gentle way. He said: “You do this with me too.” I was taken aback a moment, and then he continued. “Lauren, you don’t have to straighten up before coming to me.”

Sometimes, I end up doing this to Jesus too. I phrase my prayer in the way that I want my heart to feel, but not in total honesty. I act like I’m okay when I’m not. I trust him, and saying “I trust you” is true, but he wants to hear the messy part too. Jesus wants all of me, and all of you. He wants to be your closest friend.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”    John 15:15

You would expect your closest friends to be genuine and honest with you, so be honest when you talk to God as well. He’s not surprised by what you might say. He already knows the contents of our hearts, and he loves us anyway.

He calls me deeper

“You never let go, through the calm and through the storm. Oh no, You never let go, in every high and every low. Lord, you never let go of me” –You Never Let Go  Matt Redman

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This lyric really hit me last night. I am so used to Jesus being my refuge and my strength when I’m weak and struggling because that is what life with a chronic illness is. It’s an ongoing, daily struggle. I’m so used to Jesus being someone to lean on, but I have to remember that he is my friend too. It’s so important to realize His presence and His importance in the routine, in the average day too. Even on days that are going better than usual. He is always at work in my life, whether I acknowledge it or not. He waits to hear from me, he desires conversation with me.

There might be an unconscious thought in the back of my mind that, just as a doctor would dismiss a patient once treatment is complete or like a firefighter leaves the seen once the fire is put out, that Jesus leaves when we don’t desperately need him.

It’s amazing that this isn’t the case, because he is God and some would assume that only urgent matters can be tended to by him.
How cool is it that Jesus wants a relationship with me and with you? He wants to be my friend; he wants to be yours too.

“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John‬ ‭15‬:‭15‬

He isn’t just here through a crisis in our lives. He doesn’t just show up to earn “brownie points”, a pat on the back or praise from others, like some people do. Humans are flawed, and at times, have flawed intentions. Jesus’ intentions are pure.

He empathizes with our brokenness, because he knows pain, and he knows it well. He is even more comforting than the type of friend who sits next to you in silence when you’re not okay and who cries with you when you’re brokenhearted. He is with you. He cries with you too. His heart is full of love and compassion for you.
He is here during the calm as well. Not only can he pick us up when we’re hurting, but he is a wonderful companion too. He is with us on our drive to work, as we eat a meal with our family, as we go to sleep at night. Through the exciting, the excruciating, the challenging and the mundane, He is HERE.

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭6‬

He brings peace to the stress in my life, he brings joy to me that stays regardless of what is happening to me or around me. He brings comfort that is so pure, so much better and much deeper than any person or thing can give to me. This kind of peace, joy and comfort is resilient. It doesn’t change when the environment does because He lives in me and he is constant.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8