Friday, October 19, 2018

Redefining Myself

In June of 2017 I discovered that my husband of 22 years no longer wanted to be married to me. From this point on I will refer to this as The Event. I find it difficult to find words that can adequately express the pain I experienced in those first few months. Most of the time all I could do was breathe, because all of a sudden my life didn't make sense anymore. I also cried. A lot. Each morning was a kind of torture, because the reality of The Event would come crashing in on me once again. So I turned to my Heavenly Father and pictured myself curling up on His lap, the way a little child looks to the comfort and safety of her Daddy. He gave me the strength and courage to do the next thing. Eventually all those next things led to seeing my eldest off to college, signing divorce papers, selling the house and moving into an apartment with my youngest.

The divorce was final in January of 2018. I had been a wife for over 2 decades, and I wasn't quite sure who or what I was anymore. I really loved being his wife. I used to be one half of a whole, but The Event left me feeling broken and incomplete. The greatest joy of my life had become my deepest sorrow.

So there I was, 44 years old, in a wheelchair, and a single mother. Yes, I was a mother, and that would never change. Motherhood is the other great joy of my life. That lovely 17 year old became my reason to get out of bed every day. I used to say, jokingly, that I lived the life of leisure, because I didn't do much cooking, cleaning or laundry. I used to cook when I was still on my feet, but I have been in my chair for 13 years.  I basically had to start from scratch. There were a few times I had to say, "Wait! It's still raw in the middle, don't eat that!" Nevertheless, I had to keep trying. We had to eat. Eventually I got better at all the household things, and even surprised myself at all I've been able to accomplish.

Except for the time I spilled boiling water on my legs. That's an entirely different story that I will share another time.

Today I sit here, still a little broken, but I know who I am in different way. I know that I want to be who God has always planned for me to be.  Even though there has been so much loss, there has been more of Jesus in my heart, binding up the broken places. I have lived His faithfulness. Not seen or known it, but lived it every moment. He has carried me with every breath and every beat of my heart. I want to do more than just make it through another day. I want to choose life. I want to love the Lord, my God more every day. I want to cling to Him because He is my life and my strength and my joy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Plus Two Equals Four

I have been writing this post in my head for the past couple of weeks, but today I see that the Lord has been writing it in my heart. There are some days when everything feels like too much. Sometimes those days stretch into weeks. It's like there is a dark downward sprial inside of me, and it's all I can do to just keep my head above the water and not get sucked down. The other night I was in my bathroom getting ready for bed. I was going to wash my face, but I just didn't want to. So I told the Lord that, and I told Him I didn't want to do any of it.

I saw my neurologist last week. I told him that it's been more difficult to transfer, and my spasticity is worse. My pain is worse, my hands are more numb, and my core strength is less. This has been gradually happening over the last 6 or 7 months. I have Secondary Progressive MS, and all of this is my disease progressing. We are already doing everything there is to be done for it right now. My initial response was, "Well I do have MS, and I know that God already has it all taken care of." And I probably made a few jokes as well. All of that is true, and my jokes are usually pretty funny. That seems to be my "M.O." I look at the positive, and find the funny. But then reality sets in, along with the pain of it all. I can't just cover it up with the "right answer" and a funny joke, because it's not really funny, and the "right answer" just feels like a Band-Aid.

I am reading a book by Hannah Whitall Smith, titled The God of all Comfort. In it she says:

"Once convince a man that two and two make four, and no amount of dyspepsia, or liver complaint, or east winds, or anything else, but actual lunacy, can upset his conviction. He knows it just as well when he has an attack of dyspepsia as he does when his digestion is in good working order. Convictions come from knowledge, and no amount of good feelings or bad feelings, of good health or ill health, can alter knowledge."

The one place the Lord leads me back to again and again is the place of surrender. When I tell Him that I don't want to do any of it, I'm really telling Him I don't want to surrender again. When I read what Miss Smith said about convictions, I asked myself, What are my convictions? What am I convinced of? I am convinced that surrender is sweet. Not because it's easy. It isn't. It is harder than anything else the Lord asks me to do. Surrender is sweet, not because of what I am surrendering, but because of Who I am surrendering to. I am convinced that the One who wants to take my burden loves me with an everlasting love. I am convinced that my God goes before me, and will be with me always. I am convinced that He will supply all of my needs, and I am convinced that His grace is sufficient for me. I am convinced because He has been convincing me of all of that and more since the day I was born, before I even knew Him.

In fact, I know it just as surely as two plus two equals four.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I have to admit, I really love clothes and shoes. Sometimes I spend a ridiculous amount of time just looking at clothes online. I think it really started when I had to be in my wheelchair, because clothes just don't fit the same when you're sitting down all the time. But then it turned into using clothes and shoes to make me feel less broken. I was always searching for that perfect outfit that could somehow fix my outward brokenness, or at least make it less painful. Ultimately, I ended up with a closet full of clothes and shoes that I hardly wore, since I stay home most of the time. And all that outward stuff never came close to fixing my broken heart.

I realized that I was going about this all wrong. The Lord showed me that He is the only One that can fix my brokenness. The beautiful thing about Jesus is that He looks past what is on the outside, and sees the hidden places of my heart. He does not reject my broken heart (Psalm 51:17), or my broken body.

God delights in healing our brokenness. Psalm 34:18 says that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed." In my life, the sweetest brokenness is always in my surrender. And every single time I come to Jesus, surrendering my brokenness, He pours out His precious healing in my heart. In the same way a muscle needs to be broken down before it can become stronger, my heart and my faith are made stronger when I surrender all of my sorrow and brokenness to Jesus.

I will probably always love clothes and shoes. But I love my Lord more. Instead of searching for that "perfect thing," I have been using my time searching His Word. He promises that when we search for Him with our whole hearts, He will be found by us (Jeremiah 29:13). Today, as I sit in my chair, my body doesn't seem so broken, because my heart has been made whole by my loving Savior.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Year of Jubilee

Today is the 7th anniversary of being in my wheelchair. It's always been funny to me that it is on May 1st, because it's May Day. Mayday is a distress call, and the day that I just could not take one more step, and had to sit down instead, was truly a day of distress for me. As the years have passed, I have been able to find humor instead of distress. "Mayday, Mayday, I can't walk anymore!" It has been God's precious grace that has given me the ability to laugh instead of weep. He has turned my mourning into joy.

As the day marking 7 years of rolling instead of walking approached, I kept calling it my year of jubilee. In the Bible, the 7th year is the year of rest, and the 50th year is the Year of Jubilee. But, for me, I will still call this my year of jubilee. This is what Jesus said about it in Luke 4:18-19:
                The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
                Because He has anointed Me
                To preach the gospel to the poor;
                He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
                To proclaim liberty to the captives
                And recovery of sight to the blind,
                To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
                To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

As I have sought Him in my distress, I have seen Him heal my broken heart. He sets me free when I am held captive by my fear. He has given sight to my blindness when I couldn't see anything but my pain. Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, has given me liberty when I have been oppressed and depressed.

This is not a day to look back on what I have lost, but to see all that I have gained. As I have surrendered my heart to my faithful God, He has given me His heart that is full of love and compassion, mercy and forgiveness, gentleness and understanding. I trust that my Father is using my MS and my wheelchair to bless my life in ways that I can't even comprehend. 

So this is truly my Year of Jubilee!  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making It Count

I am working on a Bible Study called Becoming a Woman of Excellence by Cynthia Heald. I'm on the chapter about surrender. It is filled with questions like, "How does Paul's example of yielding his life (from Philippeans 3:1-10) challenge you?" and heart-piercing quotes like this one from Oswald Chambers: "There is only one thing God wants in us, and that is unconditional surrender." When I'm sitting at my desk in the quiet of the morning with my cup of coffee, it is easy to write down this answer: "My life belongs to Christ. He paid the greatest price for it. My life is hidden in Christ with God. That is the safest place I could ever be, so I can just rest, and not try to be in control."  I absolutely know and believe that with all my heart.

There are times, though, when I forget. Like when I wake up in the morning to an empty house, and the first thing I see is my wheelchair. Or when the kids complain about dinner and have to be told 5 times to brush their teeth. Or when my whole body hurts, and especially when my heart is weary from the every day sameness of life.

This afternoon while I was asking myself, "Do I really need to change out of my pajamas?" I heard the Lord whisper to my heart that what I need to do is surrender. I think it's these daily moments that really count. It's my opportunity to count all things loss for the excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Philippeans 3:8) It's no easy thing to count the big things like walking and living without pain as loss, but sometimes it's the small things that break my heart. Things like feeling like I'm in the way because my chair takes up so much space, or being able to pick something up off the floor. Sometimes I would love to simply hang out with my daughter in her room upstairs, or get the mail, or run up to the store for a gallon of milk. These are the things, as small as they are, that make me look at the bigger picture. That big picture is a beautiful one, because it is painted by the loving hand of my Savior. As I surrender these small things all throughout my life, and count them as loss, they all lead to the same place. The place of knowing Jesus and His faithful, amazing love for me.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Into the Prison

In October of last year, we had a Missions Sunday in church. We learned about the many local areas that we could become involved in. When it began, I thought that it would be interesting, but I didn't really think there was much I could do. But I wanted to have an open heart, and so when Van, who was sharing about each area, encouraged everyone to say, "Yes I can", I said it along with everyone else. But I didn't really believe it. I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, I just didn't see how I could practically be a part of any of these really great ministries. And then he came to the One-on-One Visitation Program for the Tennessee Prison for Women. There are women in prison that never have a visitor. They are lonely, and they long to know that somebody cares about them. In that moment my heart cried out, "Yes I can!" I didn't know how, but I knew that if God put it on my heart so strongly, then He would definitely provide the way for me to go.

I understand about loneliness. I am alone in my house all day. There have been times that I have felt trapped, because I have no way to leave unless someone comes and takes me out. I wanted so very much to help alleviate those feelings in another woman's life. So I wheeled my way to the back and signed my name on the volunteer list. I attended an orientation meeting to learn everything I would need to know about going into the prison. I was given the name of a girl that applied for a visitor from this ministry. Her name is Lorie. We went as a group for our first visit. As we were waiting, the first inmate came in. She began crying because she had been in for 2 years and never had a visitor. I really had to make myself keep it together, because I didn't want to be crying when Lorie came in. When she did, she had the biggest smile on her face, and she gave me a big hug. I wondered if she would be intimidated by my wheelchair, but she wasn't.  We just hit it off right away. She was very honest about her life and I shared some about mine.  Her parents don't write to her, and she had been in for 19 months without a visitor. Our time together was so sweet, and so much better than I expected.

I had to wait for about a month to be put on her official list of visitors. When I received the letter on Christmas Eve, I was so happy. I felt I had been given a gift. My husband, Marc, and I worked out a great way for me to get there. One of his favorite record stores is about 10 minutes away from the prison, so he drops me off and comes back a couple hours later to pick me up. I've been going once a month since January.

I think it can be very easy to just look past a prison when we see one, and think that there are probably scary people in there that deserve to be there. It is easy to just look past it and not consider that there are real people with hearts and feelings just as real as our own. I had no idea how much the Lord had in store for me when I signed my name on that paper. Going to visit Lorie has completely changed my perspective. Every time we pull into the prison and see all that barbed wire I realize that I am not trapped. I can go anywhere I want to. I just have to get a ride. That's more fun anyway, because I get to spend time with one of my friends. God has shown me the great depth of His love and how beautiful it is when He fills my heart to overflowing with it so that I can pour that love all over Lorie. It is a precious thing to tell her that I love her and to see her just soak it up.

In one of Lorie's letters she wrote, "I believe that God is teaching us both to see our lives with possibilities instead of disappointments. It's amazing that God can teach us the same thing together with it looking differently! Because God's grace is made perfect in our weakness."

I am forever changed because I said, "Yes I can." I want to keep saying that, because I know that with God, all things are possible.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Wall

I was diagnosed with MS almost 16 years ago. My main symptom was always difficulty walking. There were many times that I couldn't walk at all and had to use a wheelchair. When I could walk I used a cane and sort of dragged my right foot along behind me. Always in the back of my mind was the fear that I would end up in a wheelchair for good. When I would have an attack, that fear would move from the back of my mind and become a huge wall right in front of me. I couldn't see around it, over it, or anything else other than that wall. It was built brick by brick of what ifs and how can I? and so many doubts and fears. Every time I was confronted with this wall I would turn to the Lord and surrender again, knowing that His love for me was greater than my wall.

It has been nearly 7 years since I have been in my wheelchair, safely on the other side of that wall. All those years of surrender prepared me for surrendering my ability to walk and drive and all the things that are no longer mine as I roll instead of walk. I have learned so many beautiful things on this side of the wall. I know how very much Jesus loves me. I know how sweet it is to surrender to His lovely will for my life. I know the joy of sharing in the fellowship of suffering with my Savior. I have exchanged walking for a peace that reaches a place so deep inside of me that I never even knew existed.

About 6 months ago, I had an attack that made life in my wheelchair more challenging. I am still able to stand up for short periods. I can transfer from my chair to my bed, get dressed, do my own make-up, and fix my hair. I have a measure of independence that I am very thankful for. This attack made it so I couldn't stand up straight, and my balance was terrible. My hands had a serious tremor and I was completely exhausted all the time. Before I knew it, there was another wall right in front of me. This wall was built with all my doubts and fears of losing what little independence I had. But this time I had some experience with this kind of wall. I knew that things are way better on this side of the Wheelchair Wall. One morning I told the Lord that I didn't want to wait to deal with this wall if and when all my fears became reality. So I simply asked Him to take away that wall. I knew He was the only One who could do it. And right then, as I surrendered my life and all my fears once again, my sweet Heavenly Father removed that wall.

I am still confronted with fear about what my future will hold, but then I remember that God took the wall away. And then I remember that He holds my future in His hands. He has shown Himself to be faithful, trustworthy, lovely, mighty and everything else I have ever needed Him to be in my life. I have seen His perfect love cast out my fear again and again.

I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all of your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13