Face like Flint

I just got kicked out of an eczema support group on Facebook.

I was acting as sort of an awareness raising vigilante for the dangers and prevalence of topical steroid addiction amongst those who suffer with eczema.

Like, “LOOK!  Guys I have the answer.  You can get completely better!!  Your steroids have been causing your worsening condition all along.  Now you just need to go through this hellish withdrawal!!”

Obviously I wasn’t met with much enthusiasm.  The people who administrate the group are familiar with TSW and for whatever reason, have decided against it.  Not only that, but because of the suffering associated with it, they label it as “dangerous” and “misguided” and the people, like myself, who try to sound the alarm, are promptly booted from the group.

My reasons for wanting to warn people is simply that I wish someone had warned us before our level of dependence on steroids got as bad as it did.  We could have avoided so much pain and suffering for our son.

But the road is a hard one, no doubt.  And many try for a time, before going back to steroids and concluding that TSW doesn’t work.

I’ve gotten some unexpected feedback sharing my blog within my TSW support group.  People commending my husband and I for doing a good job.  It is great, in a sense, mostly because it’s vindication.  When we entered into this, it was going against medical advice.  It was going it alone.  It was entering into some pretty bleak and abject suffering.  We felt very defensive about our decision because while we knew we were doing the right thing, we felt a lot of heat over it.

But at this point it is finally paying off.  My son is getting better.  There is a spark of vitality and health that strengthens every single day.

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He was thrilled to get a McChicken before school~

In our case we found the answer to our prayers, to our searching, but it meant pressing through a whole lot of pain and difficulty.  “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51  Another version says, “He set his face like flint.”  Jesus knew full well what he was getting into and he pressed into it.  He was resolute.  Because he knew the joy set before him.  He knew the end game.

 

My husband and I never wavered, not once.  We knew that God had led us to this point.  We knew Gabe had to go through this withdrawal.  We were of one mind, and there is so much power in that.  Gabe, young as he is, he understood and was 100% on board too.

We’ve gone through a pretty extreme trial, but, we all go through stuff.  We all deal with pain.  That’s why we need hope.  We need to know the end game.  We need to know our Shepherd.

Often, the only way out is through.  We have to be resolute.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2-3

I know there are those who don’t get their healing.  At least, not here on this earth.  But we know the end game.  We know in whom we have believed.  We know this life isn’t the “be all, end all”.  It’s like a cosmic waiting room we bide our time in until we can get to the real deal.  And hardships help to wake us up to the eternal consequences and weightiness of how we live our lives here while we wait for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19

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Conviction vs. Condemnation

Last Sunday I had a really great day.  My daughter and I met up with my mom and her husband at the Mall of America.  I have so much fun with them.  We walk around and giggle and act silly.

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Shiloh had my mom in a death grip!

We bought chocolate at Lindt and had fresh guacamole and chips.  It was just a really great day and a much needed break from the daily grind.

As I lay in bed that night thinking about the day, I started feeling guilty.  Why?  No good reason.  I just felt almost like the day had been so fun and easy that I must be missing something.

As I lay there thinking, I felt like the Holy Spirit reminded me that God is the source of every good and perfect gift.  I shouldn’t feel some weird, misplaced guilt over having a light-hearted day.  “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

Yes we should be fighting the good fight and fight against the desires of the flesh.  But it’s ok to laugh and have fun and enjoy the gifts that God richly provides.

I was folding laundry the other night when condemnation struck again.  I dump all my family’s laundry on my bed and sort and fold my way through the giant pile every night.  For whatever reason my mind always wanders to dumb things I’ve said and done in the past.  I was going over those same stupid mistakes and feeling the familiar waves of condemnation rolling over me and weighing down on me.  So much so that I just layed my head, somewhat pathetically, on my bed and buried my face in the clean laundry.

The voice of the Holy Spirit interrupted this little condemnation sesh with an abrupt, “You could have joy right now.”  Like, HELLO, you need to reclaim this time.  Stop falling into the old trash heap and letting the enemy beat you down.

The condemnation I was feeling was not from God at all.

Another instance happened today.  I had responded a bit snippily to a woman on my TSW support page.  It was a post from a woman who was only a week or so into topical steroid withdrawal and wailing about “when will this end?!?!?!  Give me at time frame and it better be days!!!”  I was incredulous and irritated because most of the people in the group have been suffering horribly for a long time and yet maintain a positive attitude.  Then she promptly responded even more snippity-ish (yes, I’m making up a word!) and back and forth it went.

Later that day when I was singing worship songs when I got the feeling I needed to apologize to this woman.  “Hmm….  That’s an interesting thought.  noooLet me file that away for later.”  Then later then day when I sat down to read my Bible and pray, I closed my eyes and BAM! “You need to apologize to her.”

I knew it was conviction from the Holy Spirit.

Did I want to apologize?  No.  Is it something God would want me to do?- Humble myself and be gracious..?  Yes.

I sucked it up and wrote her a quick message to apologize for being harsh and that I wished her well on her TSW journey.  I let it go and went back to praying.

When God convicts it is not to bury us alive in feelings of shame and worthlessness.  It is always quick and to the point and it comes with a solution to make it right.  In this case I just needed to apologize for my part.  Because that’s what I responsible for.

The good news is that when we do respond quickly to conviction it brings us closer to the heart of God.  Conversely, when we recieve the spirit of condemnation from the enemy, it does absolutely nothing to help us become more Christ-like.

We all need to be aware of the thought patterns we have in our lives that may be building us up or bringing us down.

       “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

Proverbs 23:7

Hands and Feet

I’ve been pressing in to God through my pain and finding him in hew ways.  Yesterday morning I told him quietly, with tears in my eyes, that I was coming to the end of myself.  At that moment I felt a burden lift and a rush of joy.  Almost as if he was showing me that by coming to the end of myself I can finally come to the beginning of HIM.

I had run through the whole battery of treatment we do to get Gabe up and on his feet every day.  Lotion, ointments, vitamins, calf massage, pep talks… and I drove him to school and he couldn’t go in because his legs were still too dry to fully extend.

We came home and I had a bit of a temper tantrum.  “why is this so hard?  I do everything I can and it’s still not good enough…!”

But I pulled it together and took Gabe to Costco to get some groceries.  On days when he can’t walk I just carry his 50 pounds around until I can put him into a cart.  Yes people stare but I give zero f%#^s.  All along the game plan has been that he’s going to get better so we have not even considered buying a wheel chair.

I’m living in this state of being stretched and praying that God would work in my life.  I’m right there.   So when a woman approached me in the parking lot asking for cash I didn’t hesitate.  She was a single mom, she needed gas money, she was so, so tired… I wrapped my arms around her and prayed.  It didn’t even seem weird to me at all.  I just put my arms around her and prayed for her how I’d want someone to pray for me.  I gave her all the cash I had, which wasn’t much.

As I went back to lift Gabe’s broken little body out of the cart he said, “Mom I prayed too.”

Tears fill my eyes because I am grateful that Gabe gets to see Jesus breaking through in every day life, maybe much more so because of the state that he is in.

I’m absolutely not going to end on any sort of sanctimonious note….except to say that God wants us to remember that it truly isn’t all about us.  Our purpose here is to know him and make him known.  And we can do that even on the hardest days.

The Empty Tomb

Yesterday was a real let down for me.

See, it’s been raining here for dayyysss.  Our back yard is a soggy marsh!  But yesterday was beautiful.  Sunny and 65 degrees.  I was really hopeful that we’d be able to get out and hike and have fun as a family.

But Gabe went downhill really quick.  By the time we got to the park he was already frantically itching.  He shredded up his legs and feet.  We had to go home where I spent the rest of the day caring for him.

As much as I love him I have to admit that being a caregiver to a very ill child is incredibly draining.  It hasn’t just been weeks, or months, but years of this.

But what also happened is that we had a really rich spiritual conversation.  Gabe’s suffering has made him very sensitive to the things of God.  That and all this time I’ve spent with him has made our bond so close.  ggcici

Sometimes I just stop and thank God for giving me such a great kid.

I think about how when he was so little, the times his father and I knelt down next to his little toddler bed and prayed over him while he slept.  We dedicated our child to God and asked that he would use his life in powerful ways.

I was praying a few weeks ago and feeling very discouraged and hopeless even, but God reminded me of those prayers.  He told me, “Just keep dedicating him to me, every day.”

I woke up this morning and prayed and petitioned God with tears. for his healing.

I got this image in return of the sun rising over the empty tomb.

It’s our faith, it’s our life.  The empty tomb is the hope of humanity.

By his stripes we are healed. 20171008_074619

Suffering and pain may come knocking at our door.  They may even stick around far longer than we’d hope.  But the empty tomb gets the final say.  Weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes with the morning.

Mini-Me Emo

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish I had a mini-me!”?  lol  Me neither. 15977912_10158152160410074_5460029857167451154_n But it happened.  My son Gabe is so much like me.  He looks like me and basically has my personality down to his music taste.  True story; as a child my favorite song was “Take on Me” by A-ha.  Which is now his favorite song.  It’s so odd sometimes just how much gets passed down from one generation to the next.

I’m a sensitive introvert (an INFJ, to be exact) and I’m guessing he is too.  I swing between two extremes in personality- everything is wonderful and I love everyone…or woe is me!  Nobody loves me!  Life is horrible!

Basically wildly vacillating between these two extremes…

PinkiePieHiRes tickle-me-emo

I see so much of that in my son as well.  Finding out my personality type was extremely helpful in understanding why I think and act the way I do.

I know I write in a very serious manner but that is just part of my personality.  In my life I am really very goofy and silly and weird.  I love to laugh and would do just about anything to elicit a laugh.  But I also have this very serious, reflective side.  Lately, that part has been very much in the forefront in going through an extended health crisis with my son.

Under stress I’ve just not been in the best “head space”.  I think a part of me was upset when everyone else’s life just kept going like normal when mine came to a screeching halt.

INFJs are known for “door-slamming” when under pressure and I can look back and see I have done that multiple times in the past few months.  A door slam is when we reach a point of stress and frustration that is such that we completely cut people out of our lives.

Today I took a major step forward in repairing one such damaged relationship.  It felt really good.  I realized (ouch ouch ouch) that I can be a bit of (!!!) a drama queen at times.  I have compassion on myself though because I’ve been given this weird insight into how I am wired, because I see so much of it in my son as well.

I’m emotional.  I get hurt easy.  I tend to turn inwards instead of just outright addressing problems.  But I’m also caring and thoughtful and quick to forgive when I eventually do come to my senses.

Having children is humbling but also enlightening.  I know, for me, it has helped me to be more compassionate with myself.  I love my children so dearly but I see the humanness there.  Their weaknesses.  Their struggles.  But I love them so much, they are so precious to me.  I love them for who they are, not in spite of their humanity but because of it.  They are vulnerable and they need me and that only makes me love them more.

I think God sees us very much the same.  He loves us in our humanity, in our struggle.  He has a Father’s heart towards us.  It gives me a tremendous sense of comfort to think of God in that way.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” Isaiah 49:15

I think that is a word for someone.  I will not forget you! 

“Heavenly Father, help us to get a sense of how much, how dearly, you love us.  Help us to know and truly understand that you will not, can not, forget us.  You fashioned us uniquely in our Mothers womb.  You know us intimately and love us eternally.  Amen”

Irrevocable

Today I put the final entry in my journal of over 3 years.  It wasn’t a big journal.  It was something that I wrote in sporadically.  As I filled the final page I reflected over the past three years and changes I want to make.

I felt a general feeling of sadness.

I haven’t been as close to the Lord as I could have been.  I wasted a lot of time.

I wrote out my last entry with some pretty basic goals/hopes for the coming years.  I want to see my baby healed.  I want to be closer to God.

I opened my Bible to Romans 11 and read “….for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” Romans 11:29  I love the word “irrevocable”.  The Greek word here is ametamelétos which means “about which no change of mind can take place”.

The call on your life, the gifts God has given you- those things are irrevocable.  Does that give anyone else a tremendous sense of comfort? 20170712_130709

“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.” Romans 8:30-31

Foreknew.  Predestined.  Called.  Justified.  Glorified.

I can’t type these words without tears welling in my eyes.  There is a destiny on your life that supercedes the things that bog you down, the pain that leaves you crippled, the sin that separates you from your Father.  His call, his choice…it’s irrevocable. 

“Lord, fan into flames again the dreams you put into our hearts.  Work in us the will, the desire to obey you.  Help us, Lord, to be courageous and to be more than overcomers through Christ Jesus.  Thank you, Lord, that you knew us before the dawning of time.  You chose us and your banner over us is love.  We love you and we trust that you are working all things out for our good, because we love you and are called according to your unshakeable, irrevocable purpose.”

 

 

Grunge and Depression

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a “there’s demons in the rock music” type of post… just some random reflections and what’s been rolling around in my head lately.

Just within this past week or so I have been coming to grips with the fact that I have depression.  I think I’ve always put my depression in the context of “overcoming” just because that’s how I’m wired.  I’m an INFJ and part of that I am always aggressively looking for ways to improve myself, including my mental health.

“Feeling sad?  Feeling down?  Nothing a good workout and chocolate protein shake can’t fix!!”

Recent events have brought it more clearly into focus.  I have depression.  I’ve probably had it since I was 13.  I usually manage it well enough through healthy coping mechanisms (and let’s face it, sometimes unhealthy ones).  I’m a sensitive person, I think and feel very deeply.  I naturally tend towards melancholy.  Out of all 4 of my siblings and I, I think it is safe to say we all struggle with some degree of depression and anxiety every single day.

There is certainly a genetic component as well as a very real spiritual one.  I do struggle with depression however I do still hear from God, I do still feel a great deal of happiness in my life- because of my relationship with Him and all the gifts he has showered down onto my life.

I can honestly say I don’t think I would have survived my depression without God breaking through into my life.  “the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16

With the passing of Chris Cornell I can’t help but reflect on my past and the impact depression has had.  I was only a kid when the grunge movement was big but my older siblings were really into it.  When I got into my teenage years the angst and authenticity of the music really spoke to me.  My favorite band was Soundgarden…and then of course, Audioslave.

Chris Cornell was, like many artists, a sensitive soul that battled his own demons and dealt with depression.  We don’t know for sure if his death was a suicide, but it seems likely.  He likely fought the depression and the darkness the best he could, until he couldn’t.

I’ve gone through major crisis’ in my faith.  When I came to God I knew I had major issues, deep pain in my heart.  I knew I needed healing.  I knew I carried a shame around in my soul that tainted every part of my life.   I sought God with everything, I sought healing.  I prayed, I fasted, I wept…. for years.  Yet I still feel such angst in my soul.  I still wake up everyday and feel the need to prove my worth.  I still fight to keep the depression at bay.

I really don’t like offering up “untidy” blog posts.  I really like to post when I’m pumped up on a spiritual high with God and feel like I can offer inspiration.  Those times are true and genuine but they certainly don’t capture the whole story.

I feel like I want to be a little more real in my writing.  Because, well…there are no “successful Christian makeover!” stories, at least not in the sense that we get so healed and delivered that we live in a sort of spiritual reverie, immune to the flesh nature, with a perfect grin and perfect family until Kingdom come.

It just isn’t reality.

In being thrust into a caretaker care for my son, a lot of the self-medicating (or coping, tomato-tomato!) tactics I’ve used have been really messed with.  The things I use to prop myself up (don’t we all have them?) where suddenly taken or just not enough.  I’ve realized my motivation for serving God is actually very little when I am really hurting and my prayers seem to go nowhere.  “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

Just today I was feeling down about something when I heard God speak to my heart about how He loves me.  He loves the “hot mess” me.  I remembered a time, when I was in my early 20’s and seriously depressed.  I couldn’t love myself and couldn’t imagine God could either.  I stopped praying.  I remember sitting on the dusty carpet in my bedroom near tears when this song came on the radio… https://youtu.be/Ek4I6BeMQIs

I just knew that song, at that moment, was for Me- from God.  I bawled and bawled.  It was a real moment in my life where his light burst forth into the deep darkness I found myself lost in.

I struggle with wanting to wrap everything up into a neat little Christian bow but I really can’t.  As my 8 year old was asking me why God has allowed him to go through these years of suffering, there really aren’t any easy answers.

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Copper the dog looks sad for Gabe too~

I think in this life the pain is real.  The hurts are real.  Especially the hurt we all carry around in our hearts.  So much of life seems random, chaotic even- but for the moments that the light of God breaks in.  Somehow we survive and come out a little softer, a little stronger.

It’s ok to be hurting.  It’s ok to have questions.  As long as those pangs and hurts ultimately lead us to our Healer, into a deeper relationship with Him, as he slowly unravels the hurts and shines his light into our deep darkness.   And if we take a detour, He will come and rescue us when we are ready.