Monday, January 22, 2018

Heart Transplant

"Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them." - Charles Spurgeon

Whoa. Seriously. How true is this? If we never experienced pain, would we even know joy?

If nothing ever cost anything, how could we appreciate value?

If nothing ever died, how would we cherish life?

If there were no darkness, how could we embrace light?

If there were no hatred, how could we comprehend love?

Deep thoughts today, I suppose.

I've been down this road before, where I have said that I am thankful for what I have been through because it has shown me so much.

About myself.

About others.

About God.

About love. Not all of what I have learned has been good, especially about people, including myself!  I guess you could say God did something of a heart transplant in me.  He gave me much more of His heart and less of my own selfish heart. Not that I don't have a long way to go, because friend, I do!

Whether your belief system says God "sent" me this disease, or "allowed" it to happen, it doesn't much matter, as the end result is the same: He is Sovereign. He knows best, and He knows what it takes to get my attention, and keep it. And for that, I truly am eternally grateful.

To those hearts of who have encouraged me and my family, who have been there when I didn't know where to turn: thank you for being the light in my darkness. Thank you for listening to His whispers, (or as it would have been in MY case, His shouting and beating over the head with large objects....I don't always listen so well.)

So when you get discouraged, just remember: God KNOWS what He is doing. I PROMISE. I know it may not feel like it at the time, but He does. And He wants what's BEST for you.

Think of someone you love with all of your heart. The BEST things you could possibly imagine wanting for them are nothing compared to what God wants for YOU. Believe it.

Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob:
“No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
    no longer will their faces grow pale.
23 When they see among them their children,
    the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
    they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
    and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
    those who complain will accept instruction.”
Isaiah 29:22-24 NIV

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Even If

There are two incredibly powerful words in the English language:  Even If.  Think about it.  At a wedding, we hear vows that say the husband and wife promise to love each other for better or worse, for richer or poorer, and in sickness or in health.  You could substitute "even if" here...

A man promises to love his wife even if things get bad.  Any things.

A woman promises to love her husband even if they lose all of their money.

They promise each other that they will love each other, be there for each other, promise to support one another even if one of them gets sick.

You know, many people don't take their vows seriously.  In the instance where one of the married duo gets a chronic illness, the divorce rate is 75%.  Three out of four marriages involving chronic illness end in divorce.  All marriages.  Christian marriages.  No one is exempt.

Sometimes in life, we need to think about the "even ifs" before we commit to something. You can't go into a marriage thinking, "Well, if it doesn't work out we can always get divorced."

NO.  That should not be an option.  If you picture worst case scenario with your future spouse and think of *anything* that would be a deal breaker, save yourself a lot of trouble and just say no.

It's not easy.  It's against basic human nature to choose to be uncomfortable.  To go against the flow.  To "fight city hall" as it were.  But some things are SO worth it.  Like your marriage.

Another thing that's totally worth investing wholly in is God.  I speak from experience here...God has bailed me out so many times in this life.  But there are times He hasn't.  And that's when I have to choose. I want to be like Daniel, and say, "'King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty,  that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'"  (Daniel 3:16-18NIV)

Wow.  Just wow.  Daniel and his 3 friends were in a foreign land, facing a formidable opponent.  They were being threatened with being thrown into a furnace.  A furnace so hot that the people opening the doors could drop dead from the intensity of the heat. But their commitment to God was so strong, and their faith so unwavering, that they dared to say, "Even if."

There is an amazing song on the radio right now by this very name.  It's by Mercy Me.  Here are the lyrics of the chorus:

"I know You're able, and I know You can, save through the fire with your mighty hand, but even if You don't, my hope is you alone.  I know the sorrow and I know the hurt, would all go away if You just say the word, but even if you don't, my hope is you alone."

Amen and amen.  When that song comes on, I belt it out as loud as I can.  I plead with myself to remember every. single. word. God IS my hope.  He is the only reason I am still on this planet, and I will cling to to Him.

Even if.... I'm never healed of MG this side of heaven.

Even if.... He never answers my prayers for more children.

Even if....

Even if.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Book Review: Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

Don’t you just love it when you KNOW God is trying to tell you something?  Like when *everything* you’re reading, studying, and even hearing from the pulpit at church on Sunday are all the same thing?  Yes, indeed.

I read a book called “Ordering Your Private World” by Gordon MacDonald.   A caption on the back cover reads, “Has anyone seen my time? It seems I’ve misplaced it.”  Jawdrop.  Very accurate of how I feel many days.

MacDonald goes on to talk about driven people, and how the busier they are the more accomplished they feel.  However, he points out that the only way to truly be successful is to order your “inner” (spiritual) self.  So ask yourself these questions:  Does your inner spirit match your public persona?  Do you pray for people, in front of people, but never have one on one time with God?

Jesus Himself sought solitude to commune with the Father.  What makes us think that we don’t need to? Mmm-hm.

One of my favorite quotes from this book: "Not everything that cries the loudest in the most urgent thing."  Love that.  And it's so true!  So many things scream for our attention.  But what are the things that God would have us to do? That's where having your "private world" in line with the Scriptures is imperative.

MacDonalds father once told him that one of the greatest tests of character is deciding not just the good from the bad, but the best from the good.  I have used the same theory while teaching Jacob.  Sometimes there is more that one "right" answer.  But which answer is the best? 

This is a book chock full of not only wisdom, but also practical things that you can do to get back control of your time.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who struggles with prioritizing the many demands life has placed on them; teachers, moms, dads, pastors, community leaders.  It's definitely a good read.

You can find Ordering Your Private World, Revised and Updated, by Gordon MacDonald by clicking here

Or here.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: The Awakening of HK Derryberry

photo courtesy of Barnes and Noble

Grab a tissue before you read this one, folks.  What a brilliant true story of a very unlikely friendship: that of a 9 year old blind boy with cerebral palsy and well-to-do middle aged businessman.

God had an appointment for Jim Bradford one chilly October morning.  Jim was going to get a cup of coffee, his second of the day, at Starbucks or McDonalds.  But for some reason, he turned the opposite way of those places, and went to a place he had never been to before:  Mrs. Winner's Chicken & Biscuits.

Once there he saw a small boy, all alone in one of the booths.  He was blind.  He had braces on his legs, and he was bent over a taped-together radio, concentrating intently on what he was hearing.

Over the course of several years, the boy, HK Derryberry, and Jim Bradford forged a friendship that was truly more like a father-son relationship.  HK's mother had been in a horrible car accident while she was pregnant with him, and ended up being taken off life support after having HK via C-section.  HK's father was a no good drunk who took off immediately, leaving HK's paternal grandmother to care for him. Because he was born so early, he would stay in the NICU for 96 days. His premature birth was the reason for both his cerebral palsy and blindness.

Jim and HK started spending every Saturday together at Mrs. Winner's, and eventually, at Mr. Bradford's home.  When they met, HK was kind of a "Rain Man"; he would pepper Jim with questions (and anyone else he was introduced to) and couldn't really carry on a conversation.  By the end of the book, HK and Mr. Bradford were doing speaking engagements together.

This is a total feel-good story.  Sure, there are some ups and downs, some parts more sad than others. But overall, by the end of the story, I think you'll find that like Mr. Bradford, like me, you'll want to be a little more like HK.  The boy turned young man who sees with his heart instead of his eyes.

The only thing that I was mildly perturbed about regarding this book is that is jumped around chronologically.   For example, one chapter might end with Mr. Bradford sharing about something that happened in 2010, and then the next chapter would start in 2004. Each chapter had a logical order to it however;  this small discrepancy is one that won't bother 95% of most people. I'm just a little weird that way.

I hope you read this amazing story of life, faith, and a young man who will totally inspire you.

I received this book at no cost in return for my fair and honest review.

You can purchase the book Barnes and Noble by clicking   here
Or you can purchase it on amazon by clicking    here

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Get Out Of That Pit! Book Review

photo credit Barnes and Noble

Have you ever found yourself in a pit? Literally or figuratively; I suppose both are possible.  I've never been in a literal pit, unless you count the time I backed Doug's truck into a ditch.... But that's a whole different post!

I have been in my share of emotional pits.  We're not just talking down in the dumps, feeling sorry for myself pits.  We're talking hopelessly, depressingly STUCK with no idea how to get out.  Sometimes I don't know how I even got there, let alone how to get out.

Beth Moore is a Bible teacher and author of many books (really good ones at that!).  I just re-read her book "Get out of that Pit" which was re-released for its 10th anniversary.  I was reminded that there are are several ways to know that you're not just stuck in a rut, but that you are IN a pit.

Do you feel stuck?  Just plain ol' stuck.  Like you just can't get motivated? Then you might be in a pit. If you've ever been in a mud-hole or even a deep pile of snow, you KNOW what it's like to be stuck. I have literally pulled off a shoe walking through the mud. I'm sure as a kid I've lost many a boot to Michigan winters as well!

Do you feel like you've lost your vision?  You know, "the thing" that used to get you out of bed every morning?  Well, you might be in a pit.

So how did you and I get into our pits?  Beth Moore tells us there are 3 ways to get into our pits:
First of all, you can get thrown in. Think of Joseph in the Bible.  His brothers threw him into a literal pit and left him for dead! How can you or I get thrown in?  Think of abuse as a child.  Or maybe being abandoned by a spouse, leaving you a single parent.  Maybe, like me, you've been diagnosed with an incurable disease.

Secondly, you can slide into a pit.  Maybe you never really meant for that "friendship" with the opposite sex to go was supposed to be just harmless flirting.

Third, you can jump right into your pit,  Yup. Feet first, head first, whichever, you just jump. Think of David in the Bible. He saw Bathsheba, he lusted after her, and he slept with her, even thought he KNEW she was married. Then he had her husband murdered.  Pretty big pit there if you ask me.  Maybe you've never had an affair or killed anyone.  Maybe you have; who am I to judge?  You may also be a recovering addict; 10 years sober.  And you decide to have just one drink to celebrate. To prove to yourself that you can do it.  The next thing you know you're totally wasted and have just become a pit-dweller.

But just like most stories in the Bible, there is HOPE!  Our God will not leave us in the pit if we ask for help.

"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord." Psalm 40:1-3

Beloved, God loves you SO much He will do and/or allow *anything*, and I mean ANYTHING to get your attention, and get you back on the road to Him.  He loves us with a love difficult to understand.  And God does not want us living in a pit. But we have to ask for His help.

Are you in a pit?  Do you want out?  Beth Moore gives us the way out in her book "Get out of that Pit".  The answer is really quite simple:  Cry out to God.  Look back at the passage of Scripture... God will hear your cry!

From the back cover: "It is Beth's stirring message of the sheer hope, utter deliverance...and complete and glorious freedom of God."

You can purchase this book at Barnes and Noble
You can also purchase it at Christian Book Distributors

I received this book free in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The End, and The Beginning

So I left y'all last time as I was saying goodbye to Dr. Moretti and the December team of neurologists at the U of M in Ann Arbor, MI.  My diagnosis was either bulbar palsy, degenerative and terminal; or myasthenia gravis (MG), treatable, but not curable. You can read about the confusion of the November idiots doctors here.

I had a follow-up appointment for February, 2001.  When I got to that appointment, everyone was *shocked*.  I mean open-mouthed, calling nurses into the room, getting the head of the neurology department, Dr. Albers, into the room, shocked.  Dr. Albers told me there was no medical reason for me to be alive.  He said I was a true miracle.  Now coming from a "man of science", that was pretty impressive.  But then, God does that... Impresses people.  Usually when you are with a doctor, by the way,  you don't WANT to be impressive... but this time, it was awesome!

Dr. Moretti was thrilled.  Beyond thrilled.  What I didn't realize at the time, and didn't find out until a few years ago, was that my discharge papers read "Bulbar palsy" as the diagnosis upon discharge.  They didn't expect me to LIVE to see February, let alone be there, much improved, from the last time they saw me. 

So even though I did not have ONE positive test at this point, my diagnosis was Myasthenia Gravis.  It was the beginning of a new life, a life with an incurable, neuromuscular disease.  A new normal.  One that would lead to many ups and downs; many more miracles and "no medical reason" situations; and many, many prayers.  It was the prayer of God's faithful people and His grace and mercy that helped me live through my hospitalization.

My husband, through all of this, was amazing.  There is NO way I could have gotten through this without him.  Honey, you are truly my hero.   God blessed this man with everything he could possible need to be my husband.  He was ingenious. When I got home around midnight two days before Christmas in 2000, none of my hospital equipment was there.  I was still on a feeding tube, and it was time for my next "meal."  The pump wasn't there. Doug grabs a fishing pole and sets up a gravity feed for me.  Amazing.

One time, when we were up in Escanaba (think Alaska but in northern Michigan; cold and remote!) visiting his parents, in the middle of winter, my suction machine quit working at about 2 A.M.  I *freaked*.  Doug calmly put on his Carharts (for those of you who don't know what Carharts are, think canvas covered snow pants...nothing gets through them, and every man who lives north of the Mason-Dixon line has some), went out to the truck, got his tool box and came back into the room.  He took apart my suction machine, studied some parts, then asked for the ear wire of an earring.  I was baffled to say the least.

He soldered the earring wire into the circuit board to make a connection where one had been broken.
{pausing for applause to die down}

The man is a ROCK star.

The sad fact is that 3 out of 4 marriages where one partner is chronically ill ends in divorce. That's 75%.  Might be even higher.  Doug stood by me...we had been married all of 6 weeks when I went to the U of M for the first time.  SO many men would have walked.  Not mine.  I'll be eternally grateful.

Next time, the conclusion (I think) to my "diagnosis" story.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

When They Told Me I Might Die

So here I am, back at the U of M, finally in a room at like 2 in the morning.  My saving grace was that it was December, so I had new doctors once again.  And this time, they were GOOD.  I will never forget Dr. Paola Moretti.  He is the second doctor I credit with saving my life.  He looked me right in the eye and said, "We WILL figure out what's wrong with you."  And I totally believed him.  And he kept his word.

On December 9, 2000, my team of doctors walked into the room looking quite somber. I knew that at this point, none of the tests, bloodwork, LP's, EMG's, etc had come back positive. One negative after another.  Dr. Moretti said, "We have narrowed your condition down to 2 things:  one of them is Myasthenia Gravis, which is treatable, but there is no cure.  The other is a form of bulbar palsy that is degenerative and terminal."   

I just blinked.  I was 29 years old.  I had been married for about 14 weeks.  And I was just told I may be dying from a horrible, degenerative, debilitating disease.  I couldn't speak. And those who know me know I'm *never* at a loss for words. I couldn't even pray.  

And that's what scared me the most.  

Then the Lord led me to Romans 8:26-27. 

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26-27 ESV

What a comfort!  I had been a Christian my whole life, but never before did I lack words to pray... Until now.  When I read this passage, when I understood that the very Holy Spirit of GOD, who lived in me, went before the throne of God on MY behalf; "with groanings too deep for words":  don't get me wrong, I was still very troubled... But I had a sense of peace that I didn't have before, because I knew somehow, God was going to take care of me.

Dr. Moretti said the best thing to do was to continue treating me as if I had Myasthenia Gravis (MG) because out of the two things I most likely had, it was the only one that was treatable. So if I responded to treatment, I had MG.  If I didn't I'd likely be dead in months.  Only time would tell.
To be continued...

For part one of my story click here:

Part two: