Do You Need REST?


During these last six months of illness, I’ve found the need to rest is much greater. Partially because I don’t sleep well at night, but also due to the fact that my body isn’t well. Fatigue is ongoing.

But recently, I’ve heard God speaking the word REST to me at every turn. In his word, in his whispers to me, and in songs, he keeps impressing this idea of rest on me. I finally realized that it had much more to do with my spirit than my physical body.

There are so many places in the Bible that indicate rest.

  • The Lord leads us beside still waters and makes us lie down in green pastures. (Psalm 23)
  • In Genesis, God rested from creating the world. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t tired, but spoke from a place of completion.
  • The Bible refers to God’s people entering his rest. (Exodus and Hebrews)
  • David, the Psalmist, talks about sleeping in peace. (Psalm 4:8)
  • Jesus tells anyone who is weary and burdened to come to him and swap places. (Matthew 30)

Resting is actually about:

  • being in God’s presence
  • letting him hold us and everything in our lives
  • waiting on him
  • trusting that he’s “got this”
  • not stressing about the outcome of situations
  • believing that the God of the universe is holding onto me in love and he will not let go of me

It’s about being able to be still because we know that HE is God. (Psalm 46:10)

No matter what things look like. Despite the possible “what if’s.” In spite of the illness, or bank account, or silence from a loved one.

As I pondered this, I believe God gave me this acronym to encompass what he was trying to get me to embrace.

R – Refreshed. When I rest in Him, I will feel refreshed rather than weary.

E – Established. He is the one who establishes me and everything in my life.

S – Stay. If I want to find rest, I need to stay in his presence.

T – Trust. It all comes down to trusting him. When I know how much he loves me, I can trust that he has my back.

So if you find you are in need of REST, remember that while a nap might help our physical body, true rest comes from a spirit trusting in and leaning on God.

Waiting Well


Do you wait well?

Photo by Enric Cruz Lu00f3pez on Pexels.com

In line, in traffic, for good or bad news? What about for an answer, or promotion, or tax refund?

I confess, I can be impatient, irritated, or dismissive when I’m called on to wait for something. That may be part of why I’ve been entrusted with this season of waiting.

Since October, I’ve been waiting for God to heal me.

I have some mystery illness which my primary doctor has currently speculated might be seronegative rheumatoid arthritis. It has caused swelling all over my entire body (not just joints as is common), numbness in my hands and feet, rashes, dizziness, fatigue and constant pain – either aching, burning, or stabbing me randomly. Mostly at night. So I have a love/hate relationship with sleeping right now. Moving makes me blow up like a puffer fish. Resting causes me to not be able to move. And I’ve been waiting since December to see a rheumatologist. Apparently there aren’t many where I live, and even less that take my insurance.

Did you hear my snort of impatience right then?

Just to make it clear, I’m not complaining. I don’t really think doctors have answers. The few offered haven’t changed anything. (Diet, medicine, activity, etc.) My unique symptoms don’t really match any particular diagnosis. I believe God is my only answer. And I trust him completely. So I’m asking him to help me wait well while I wait for whatever good plan he has to be completed.

At some point, all of us might have to wait for many things – hasn’t this been a season of that? (Sorry to all you who are still waiting for your state or city to open up again!)

But do we know how to wait well?

Here are some of the things I do to wait well:

  • Every morning I choose to thank God for the day he made and rejoice and be glad in it.
  • I start each day with praising him, reading his word, and singing along with worship music.
  • I listen to prophetic words of encouragement.
  • I pray for others.
  • I proclaim what I know to be true about God.
  • I do whatever I am apply to accomplish and let go of the rest. Sometimes that means not washing my hair. (Yuck.)
  • I ask for help when I need it.
  • I let others know how to pray for me.
  • I keep writing books (even though it makes my hands and arms ache).

God is so faithful. He hasn’t allowed my healing to show itself yet (I believe I am healed and waiting for it to show up), but he has shown me so many things. I’m learning to be bolder in prayer. I’ve been alerted to some old resentments I didn’t realize I was harboring against someone who hurt my family. I’m learning to be slower to speak and better at listening. My compassion has increased.

And in the midst of it all, God has helped me write my next book. Yippee! As I write out the last pages, I’m sharing the beginning here with you. Where Blows the Wind is the sequel to When the Wind Blows and now part of a four book series that I never planned, but apparently God did.

So, I hope you enjoy this taste of Where Blows the Wind while you’re waiting for its release on June 15th in time for your summer reading pleasure.

Maybe it will help you wait well. 😉

Where Blows the Wind

The older man had no idea how Tyrina Louise Duval felt about family. How could he? And yet, here he was inviting her to join their gathering. His family of strangers. At least that was the way he put it. Although they all lived in the same building, the group had never met until Hurricane Harriet blew in less than a year ago. The connection between them was obvious. The longing in her heart nearly surpassed her hesitancy. But in the end, she thanked him kindly and turned to leave, flinging a yearning glance over her shoulder as she left.

Now she watched them from her third-floor balcony.

“Ralph Manning,” the man said when he introduced himself and offered to share their story. She imagined it was a remarkable one. No one would guess that the young couple with a baby and the man with the twenty-something girl—from the resemblance she assumed they were truly father and daughter—were not related to the elderly couple. He claimed they met there. Neighbors in this high-rise building of condos. Clearly, no matter how they met, they shared an uncommon love. Tyrina felt it when she walked by. Even from a distance.

Why hadn’t she stayed to listen?

She wanted to. Now she wished she had. To interact with a group that obviously cared so much for each other could only bring joy. Couldn’t it?

Observing them from the safety of her condominium evoked the old pain and longing while reaching an arm out to her with hope. A sad smile tugged at her mouth. Hope brought disappointment. She knew that feeling all too well.

Turning away from the scene below her, she brushed back a stray curl that had escaped from her braid. On humid days like this, her tawny hair tormented her with frizzy strands that barely remained contained in tight braids like the one she wore today. Otherwise, she let her springy locks hang loose down her back and shoulders. She finally learned about ten years ago that fighting her natural born curls was not worth the long hours and money wasted on product. Besides, she believed in being free. And she was trying to be. That included her hair.

Tyrina shook her head at her thoughts. How had her hair determined so much of her identity? For nearly a lifetime, it seemed it was her one claim to real beauty. As a youngster, when her light brown skin brought some snide comments from those lighter or darker than her, confusion took up residence in her heart. Even her grandmother hated that her ebony-skinned son had married a white girl. Tyrina didn’t understand. How could the color of someone’s skin make a difference as to who they were inside?

Confusion ruled her life for as long as she could remember, and not belonging dictated it from the beginning.

Tyrina shook off the reverie.

It was a beautiful afternoon. Exactly the reason she had gone out in the first place. Until she observed the group with Ralph and his friends celebrating something, she’d planned on spending a few hours outside in the warm, but not too hot weather. In late August, cooler days were infrequent in Southwest Florida, so residents took advantage whenever a breezy day lowered the temperature to a reasonable setting. A walk around the grounds or at Fort Myers Beach after church on Sundays gave her time to reflect on the pastor’s message. Every week it seemed that he spoke to her directly. Obviously, that wasn’t the case. She knew it was the way God let her receive the words.

But the past few weeks, no matter what he said, or what she read in her Bible, nothing landed right. Restlessness stirred in her and wouldn’t be quelled.

Lost in His Love


While this unexplained illness or condition has taken over my body for the past five months, I’ve experienced a myriad of emotions. In the beginning, the majority of my time I lived in a sense of peace. The condition was inconvenient, a little scary and sometimes painful. With no explanations, negative blood tests, and absolute trust in my Savior who heals, I settled into the journey, believing that any morning I would wake up and be fine again.

Clearly, that hasn’t been the case.

My complete trust in Jesus and his healing hasn’t wavered. I’m not scared. I wait each day for his healing to manifest. He’s promised me, my husband, my family, and friends that I will see his healing come. The only unknown is when.

In the meantime, I’ve become nearly immobile. The pain is often so excruciating that it wrenches cries out of me—sometimes when I least expect it. My body is swollen all over making it difficult to move or sleep. I confess that most days I dread getting into bed as well as hating to get out of it.

I eat clean and healthy. I take supplements, herbs, oils, teas and have fasted a number of foods at different times to check for any allergies. A couple of homeopathic medicines give a little relief from pain that typical medications don’t touch.

It seems God has made it clear that this “thing” will not be healed by anything or anyone except him.

I believe he has a purpose in all of this. He’s working in me and my husband. I pray that I will be glorifying to my Lord God. When pain is at it’s worst, I pray for others who suffer far worse than I do for years or at the hands of those torturing them because of their love for Jesus.

Some days, I confess, I feel discouraged.

But the one thing that has sustained me and continues to be the only place of complete relief is being in the presence of Jesus.

I can imagine how people flocked to him when he walked the earth. Many came to him for healing. They obviously wanted freedom from their torturous life. But what some of them realized and experienced was the incredible joy and peace that came from being in his presence.

Even the bleeding woman just wanted to get close enough to touch his robe.

Being in the presence of God.

Getting lost completely in his love. That is where I find peace. Where the discouragement of my condition dissolves and time stops (time is irrelevant to God). Peace, that kind that we don’t understand, washes over me, rests on me, and thoroughly surrounds me.

That is also where healing starts.

Healing for our hearts, our bodies, our relationships, and our life starts in the presence of our loving God. Totally submerged in his love, we also find identity, purpose, direction, and release.

I don’t know how long I will be in this place.

I might wake up tomorrow and be able to move and live again without pain and fatigue. I also might find that the perfect timing of God hasn’t come yet. Maybe it won’t for weeks, months, or years. Healing may not come until I’m in heaven at my Savior’s side.

But I do know that each day, I’m finding peace, strength, growth of faith, and joy in the presence of Jesus here and now.

 There’s an album by Brandon Lake (Bethel Music) called House of Miracles that I’ve been playing on repeat. The live release session of the entire album can be played here on Youtube. Every song is inspired and an incredible leading into the presence of God. One of my favorites, Lost in Your Love, has these lyrics that stand out to me:

“Your power is found in the roughest waters, where I have no choice but to trust you, Father, where my every fear has to surrender….”

This season of illness is rough waters. There are no answers—doctors are stumped, typical diagnoses don’t fit, neither diet nor medication is resolving it. I have no choice but to trust my heavenly Father and surrender any fear or discouragement to him.

It is only when I’m lost in his love, sitting in his presence singing, listening, reading his word, that I’m in another place beyond today’s challenges.

No matter what we experience, whether physical, emotional, circumstantial, or relational, the presence of Jesus with his love washing over us is where we are transcended into another realm. It is where healing starts and will be completed. It’s where peace reigns. Peace we can’t explain. Peace that is beyond happiness due to circumstantial changes. Where fear must leave – in his perfect love that casts it away.

If we want to get well, he is there. Jesus is our healer. Jesus is our peace. He is our hope and joy.

Even in the midst of the roughest waters.

Can You See His Beauty?


Today is a little stormy in my town in Southwest Florida. Not really cold, but with gusty winds, grey clouds crawling across the sky, and temperatures in the mid-sixties, I’m reminded that we’re in the middle of winter. I know it’s snowing in other places, but here in our tropical paradise I forget. Looking at the sun streaming intermittently between the clouds today, it’s hard to believe it’s a frigid winter elsewhere, and we’re already half-way through the first month of 2021.

Thankfully, due to our warmer weather, there is a tree in the area behind our townhouse that spans the view of my patio and living room window. The elongated, dipping branches stretch out a handful of magenta blossoms as if it’s handing me gifts. A blanket of fallen blooms covers the ground beneath the tree. I watch as the wind scatters a shower of them to add to the carpet covering the grass.

Beauty.

In the midst of a dark world, beauty still reigns. I’m grateful this morning for the view. Grateful for the sporadic rays of sunshine and the blustery winds. Grateful that God is on his throne seeing everything, knowing all, and in control.

Time doesn’t exist within his realm. We live according to the clock, but he has already been here this day. Already seen the events still to play out. Nothing surprises him. So I can rest and revel in the beauty he offers us.

When I sit in this place of peace, listening for God’s whispers in the wind, I am transported into his kingdom. He placed man in a garden, after all, didn’t he? His desire was for us to walk and talk with him in the beauty of nature. And God doesn’t change. That’s still his desire today.

I know evil in the world rages. Our voices have been silenced by media, social sites, and masks. Lies are being called truth, and truth is repelled as a lie. Children are discarded through abortion and trafficking. Various religious groups persecute those who choose to follow Jesus in his way of love. Political tempers flare. Those who claim tolerance are intolerant of anything having to do with God. Even those who say they love God, show hate across various platforms. As the Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:1-3,

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good…”

Sounds like our world.

But God still offers us beauty. Beauty for ashes, the Bible tells us.

God’s grace and mercy reach far past our sinful, prideful ways. His peace reaches out to us when we’re harried, hassled, fearful, and anxious. He longs for us with the love of a perfect father who wants our company, our input, our devotion, and our good. His call to us is to see him, know him, and love him in response to his immeasurable love for us.

He offers us so much. For so little.

Jesus paid such a great price so that we could belong and be with him forever.

Today, when a bit of beauty crosses your path—when the color of a flower, the majesty of a sunset, a blanket of newly fallen snow, the wave of the mighty ocean, or the towering of stately trees shows up—when the hand of God strokes his paintbrush across your landscape, will you take a moment?

Whisper a thank you. Consider the God in heaven who you may have overlooked, ignored, or forgotten? Recognize that in Jesus, you can live in a place of perfect peace in spite of the crazy ways of the current world. It only takes a moment to reach out in response to God reaching out to you. Quicker than typing out a text, we can say,

“Thank you for all you’ve made. Thank you for your love. Thank you for dying on the cross for me, Jesus. I’m sorry I’ve sinned against you. Please lead me into your kingdom today. I believe you. I trust you.”

Will you join me in beauty today?

If you say, “yes,” I’d love to know. Will you give me a thumbs up in the comments, or tell me your story? Or even just click like. I pray for my readers, and we all need prayer in these times, don’t we?

Unshakable Hope


A few months ago, a mysterious illness infiltrated my body. (No, not covid.) The signs were subtle at first. Some swelling in my ankles and aching in my arms. It rapidly progressed through my body and currently holds me hostage with severely swollen, aching arms and legs and sometimes debilitating stabs of pain. Test results are all normal. I have no other symptoms apart from fatigue and an occasional headache. The doctors are stumped. I am on a three month wait for a specialist.

Not fun.

But God.

Whether I am afflicted or healed, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has made every day, and I choose to rejoice and be glad in it.

As Jesus believers, we pray each day for healing, believing and claiming that by his stripes, I’m healed. And I believe I will be. It may not be today or tomorrow that my healing manifests, but it will be one day according to his plans. Plans I don’t understand, but that are always good.

So far, I’ve learned to trust him more. I’m learning to wait well. My mind is a battlefield, and I can choose to embrace God’s presence, hope, love, and joy, or I can believe lies and be filled with fear, anger, despair, and self-pity. Each day, and sometimes multiple times a day, I have the choice.

Days are better when I choose Jesus.

Today I watched the memorial service for a blogging friend of mine who went home to Jesus on December 30th. He wrote a blog called Unshakable Hope and lived with ALS for 24 years after the doctors gave him three to five to live. I met him because of this blog. He has been such a source of encouragement and faith building to me. As his two daughters shared some questions they asked him, and played his robotic responses while he was confined completely to a wheelchair with no voice and no ability to move, I was once again inspired.

Bill talked about the passage in Scripture where Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh. He commented that our trials here are fleeting and temporary in light of eternity. Now as I wait on the Lord for healing to manifest, I am encouraged by this man’s incredible life. His wife, Mary, has been his caregiver all these years. Her grace and patience humble me. Bill reached tens of thousands of people through his blog that he wrote with eye recognition software. How can I live my life daily in this affliction so that it has eternal value?

How can I consider my current situation close to what he’s lived with? I only hope that I can live it with faith, grace, and unshakable hope like he did no matter how long it lasts. In light of eternity we live a fleeting moment.

Today is the only today we have. Tonight it will be gone, and tomorrow will come. What will we choose today?

I don’t know what the rest of my day or my tomorrows will be. We don’t even know how many tomorrows we’ll have. But today, I live for Christ in response to his love for me. No matter what comes, his love, his presence, peace, joy, and hope are beyond measure.

Will you choose him today? Whether you know him or you don’t, he loves you. He chose you. He has a plan for you.

In honor of my blogging brother Bill Sweeney. He chose Jesus.

If you’d like to see Bill’s site and posts, you can read here.

Flip It


Where Are You Looking

I read something recently that challenged me to consider how I see my position in life.

God tells us Jesus died to make us victorious, healed and free. So let’s flip our way of seeing how we approach life!

 

 

You are not a sick person fighting to be well; you are a well person fighting sickness.

You are not an addict fighting to be free; you are a free person fighting addiction.

You are not a defeated person fighting for victory; you are a victorious person fighting defeat.

(I’d gladly credit the author if there had been one listed. If that’s you – let us know.)

Mold Sickness continued…


The lab results came back positive.

I did more research and found that the mold in my system is the same type used to kill people in biological warfare. So scientists know enough about mold to use it for destruction of lives in war, but most doctors don’t take it seriously enough to be informed about the serious environmental danger when we live, work or go to school in an environment that is killing us?

The information I found astounded me.

I went to another doctor and showed her my lab results. She was kind but very apologetic as she informed me she had no knowledge about mold illness. My test results meant nothing to her. But at least she listened to all I told her and was willing to order an ultrasound of my liver because of the constant upper abdominal pain I had been in off and on for months.

The results?

Liver functioning normally, but I have nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. One of the causes is an overabundance of toxins the liver can’t handle. In addition, I’ve been plagued with various infections that attack a weakened immune system.

The system battling mold.

So we decided to move. Through a blog, I discovered many people have relocated in an effort to eradicate and control their environment and exposure to mold. Just knowing I’m not the only one encouraged me.  Within a few days of leaving our home and area, I began to feel better. Thank God!

The only setback came from us staying in a hotel that had mold in the room while on our travels. It was late, and we had already changed rooms once so felt we had no other option (though I considered sleeping in the car). Withing a few minutes I felt like I had been hit with the flu. I choked through the night with a splitting headache and very little sleep. It took about a week to feel better again.

Brendan jokingly calls mold detection my super power.

I can tell my body is still struggling to recover from the prolonged mold exposure, and I will continue looking for the best treatment options. Recent research has alerted me to the use of hydrogen peroxide which seems to be very helpful to those suffering with cancer and various infections.

At the very least, after two years of dragging myself around feeling awful, energy is like a brand new commodity. Being tired at the end of a long, physical day is very different than the debilitating exhaustion I’ve been living with. My hope is that something I have experienced will end up being beneficial to others.

Here are some things that have helped me:

  • I watch my diet. At least half to two-thirds of my diet consists of vegetables and fruit. I eat meat, but find that I feel best eating fish or eggs, then turkey, chicken and finally a dose of beef here and there. I try to go easy on grains, dairy and sugar. Avoid or limit coffee and wine. Drinking at least 6 – 8 glasses of water a day is helpful. My day starts with the juice of 1/2 a lemon in one.
  • I must supplement daily with multivitamins, 500-1,000 mg L-Glutamine, 3000+ mg of vitamin C, and 5,000 IU of vitamin d3 (per week). Sunshine is wonderful for vitamin D production so I try to get outside in the sun for 15-30 minutes per day.
  • 7-8 hours of sleep per night is critical, and I rest/nap in the afternoon if I feel tired. I used to feel guilty about this but find that pressing through exhausted is worthless and detrimental. Stopping for 30-90 minutes of napping gives me a little more energy to go on.
  • Gentle exercise is good, but I have to be careful not to do too much as that can set me off into a cycle of over-exhaustion which then keeps me from sleeping which makes me more fatigued, etc.
  • Licorice and chamomile teas are my friends. Licorice is a natural cortisol which is what gives us energy, as well as a purifier of the liver and endocrine (lymph) system. I really notice if I forget to eat my Panda licorice or drink the tea. Chamomile is a natural relaxant which calms the adrenal system and soothes the stomach. I owe many a good night’s sleep to this wonderful tea.
  • Essential oils. Thieves blend kills mold and immune blends strengthen me. I run a diffuser at least a few hours per day.
  • A positive outlook comes from focusing on Jesus. It can be so discouraging to feel bad all the time and difficult to explain to people (even loved ones) how I’m feeling and why. I am learning to keep taking one day, one step at a time looking at Jesus like Peter walking on water. I keep worshipful songs playing most of the time or play my guitar, read my Bible and talk to God as if he’s in the room. (He is.)

On the horizon…

  • I’ve recently learned that Pau d’arco is great for killing mold and fungus.
  • Milk Thistle apparently helps our livers detox.

Hoping to continue finding good ways to health. I gladly welcome your experiences in the comments below.

The World of Chronic Illness


A month ago, my husband and I decided it was time to move.

We’ve lived in a beautiful area where the forest meets the ocean, but it seems that along with redwoods, dolphins and the Santa CruzIMAG0295 Beach Boardwalk, mold also abounds.

Looking back over the thirteen years I resided in that spectacular area, I never considered my health issues as mold related. When I moved there, I was a struggling single mother of three teenagers, teaching school full time, homeschooling and working a second job.

Exhaustion was a way of life.

But eight years later, after the first couple of months of being married and living in a different house, I couldn’t drag out of bed and became sicker each week, I wondered if it was more than simply my hectic life causing the problems. Eventually we found that unseen mold filled the house.

After moving, I began to get better.

For a nearly two years I became stronger. I felt well again and had energy to walk, work out and maintain a normal lifestyle. Still, my physical “radar” could tell when entering a moldy environment because I would become nauseated, dizzy and develop a headache within minutes of exposure. But most of the time, I could avoid those situations.

Until we had been in our next home for about sixteen months.

Once again, I began to feel ill. For the first t, I passed it off as lifestyle. But given our previous experience, it wasn’t long before I made the connection. Our bathroom shower had broken tiles that had grown worse during the time we had been living there. In addition, there were water marks on the ceiling under our bathroom. These were signs of potential mold growth within the framework of the house. We alerted the landlord to the problem, but received no help. After a number of months, a plumber applied caulking to the cracks. For the next year and a half, I was terribly ill.

Far worse than the first time.

Doctors had no answers. The sores on my tongue and blisters all over my hands and inside my body were systemic, but that was all they could tell me. One diagnosed an autoimmune disease.* But which one? No clue. Only one or two of my symptoms matched any given one.

Another doctor diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis. Except my blood tests proved negative. The adrenal stress tests showed a compromised immune system not producing (or assimilating) cortisol. I wasn’t intolerant to gluten. My thyroid was fine.

The lump that developed in my jaw overnight? (I was pretty sure it was a swollen lymph node). The emergency room physician and staff didn’t know. Did no tests. Sent me home with an antibiotic prescription “just in case it is an infection.” With no fever, no sign of infection and only localized swelling and pain, the doctor couldn’t be certain. I suspected mold in my system was causing my body to fight overtime without beating it.

Could you check for mold in my system?

I asked every doctor I saw. The homeopath, the medical doctors, the naturopath and the ER physician and nurses all shook their heads like I was crazy. There’s no test for such a thing they told me. Mold can’t cause problems like yours. Everyone has a little mildew in their shower. Even the doctor that believed mold causes problems had no knowledge of what to do for it.

Try a dehumidifier,”  he said.

Except the mold was in the walls, and the air we breathed in our house as a result of the leaks and water damage, not the humidity. DSC_0006Tests proved it. Our son suddenly developed asthma and broke out in hives. Steroids barely contained it. I ran essential oil diffusers in our home to kill the mold. It helped, but didn’t solve the deeper problem. And I was starting to experience balance and memory loss.

After my doctor desensitized me to mold for the third time in a year, I decided it must be in my system as well as our environment. (He was great and strengthened my immune system which helped, but we couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting well completely.) Hours of internet searching led me to a lab that did mold testing. But the cost was into thousands and not money we had.

Still, what else could we do?

 

to be continued…

*some of the conditions misdiagnosed as a result of or suffered in tandem with Mold Sickness are rheumatoid arthritis,  lupus, Lyme disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) to list a few

How Can I Have Joy When My Life Stinks?


It depends on where your focus is.

Every year, right after school lets out for the summer, our church hosts a week long day camp called VBS. Or as we VBS 011affectionately call it “vibs.” In most parts, Vacation Bible School is a well known event among church goers. Children gather for a few hours and participate in Bible stories, crafts and maybe learning a few songs about Jesus loving us.

At our church, we believe that kids relate to fun so we make VBS hugely fun with an entire morning and afternoon production, sports games, crafts, special events — a climbing wall, bounce houses and a petting zoo (to name a few).

The kids are in age/gender teams and create banners, team cheers and close friendships. They spray water guns and fly down a zip line. Stories are acted out on stage in front of them and discussed during team time with their adult leaders and teen assistants.

It’s a week of special treats like the snack bar, snow cones and ice cream. Songs are sung with dancing and hand motions in an outdoor amphitheater with the words displayed on huge banners. A dance team worships the Lord, encouraging the kids to learn the moves and dance along. Bible Buddies, or B Buds, act out the verses for the day which all fit with the theme for the week.

Today is the our day and will end with an amazing barbeque and final production to give the parents a glimpse of what their children have experienced all week – the reason they are all smiles, dirt and good tiredness.

Sounds like fun, huh?

Did I mention that approximately two hundred volunteers donate their time, often their vacation time from work, to help make this event a success? From that first year I stepped into the role of “team leader,” I couldn’t imagine not helping with VBS.

But last year, I became ill and as we got closer to the event, I realized that my acting role that year was not going to happen. Others stepped in for me at the last minute, and I traveled out of state for some rest. I watched my husband and daughters perform online via live streaming. I missed it. And this year, while I’m better, I’ve still been sick.

I didn’t think I had the physical strength to participate.

And I didn’t have the energy to care. I decided I would stay home and pray. People asked what I would be doing.

Nothing this year,” I’d answer.

But one day a few weeks back, a friend made a simple request. The man directing traffic was desperately in need of help. Since my husband and I had been in charge of traffic a few years ago, my friend wondered if I would consider helping out at all. Even for a day or two. I didn’t think it would work, but I agreed to pray about it. After all, it would only be a couple of hours in the morning.

I said yes.

The traffic director said I made his day. Imagine that. Something so simple brought such joy to him. Monday I arrived in the fog with excitement stirring in my heart. I greeted cars and directed them to the appropriate places. God gave me the energy to run around even when an unexpected situation arose that required way more than I thought I had to give.

After I finished, I watched my daughter sing and dance, kissed my two grand kids and went home to rest. Tuesday I woke with a migraine, but since I felt better standing rather than lying down, I took some pain medication and headed off to VBS again. Within an hour, my head wasn’t threatening to explode anymore. During the singing and dancing, I held my grand daughter.

And so it continued. A few hours of  chatting with friends, welcoming strangers, and participating in song and dance with my grand children in the morning, and then I’ve rested in the afternoon.

It seems like I haven’t done anything much.

But something has happened to my heart. Each day as I’ve worshiped the Lord, waved to parents, cheered for my daughter, watched my son with his team and snuggled my grand kids, I’ve been infused with joy. Overflowing, tears pouring down my cheeks joy.

Nothing in my circumstances has changed. I’m still sick. Our finances are tight. My husband is battling with job issues. We still don’t know what to do about mold, and our landlord has raised our rent, but not made needed repairs. My son sprained his knee and got hit in the chin with a baseball. Life kind of stinks. As do the lives of many of the people I’ve been serving with this week. Illness, injuries, and tough life challenges abound.

But my focus changed this week.

What I see is different. A smile goes a long way to cheer someone. We are in this together, joined by Jesus and our trials. My daughter’s face radiates the joy of the Lord as she belts out worship songs and dances on stage in front of hundreds of kids and adults. Our son rejoiced when one of his friends accepted the Lord. I wake and go through my day with the lines from songs echoing in my head. Words like:

I know You love me. You are for me, not against me …You only think good thoughts about me.

Or

Take me. This is all I can bring. (this little bit of sick, weakness) I feel alive. I come alive. I am alive…

It’s ended up being a great week. I’m no more tired than usual, but my heart is far less heavy. And I’ve found that having joy in the midst of life’s difficulties all depends on our focus.

To check out our VBS FUN visit www.coastlands.org and find us on Facebook.

 

Missing In Action


The saga continues.

Almost five years ago, within months of becoming a newlywed, I began to feel sick. Flu like. Tired. Nauseated. Dizzy. Headaches. At first I wondered if I could be pregnant. I mean, it would have taken a miracle, but God had already done that putting Brendan and me together. We would have welcomed a baby.

I took a test. Negative.

That was okay. We had enough adjustments to make without adding a pregnancy and newborn to the list. But my “sickness” didn’t diminish. In fact, it became worse. We took a trip to Disneyland, and I had to be pushed in a wheelchair because I didn’t have the strength to walk or even stand in line. It was a little overwhelming and discouraging. And I became sicker. Until I could barely crawl out of bed on most days.

Eventually, we discovered we had mold growing in our house.IMG_4523

A lot of mold. One of the giveaways was how I would feel better when I was out of the house for long periods of time. When the landlord finally decided to address the issues we presented (mushrooms growing in the bathroom for example), they tore open a small section of the bathroom wall and discovered everything was covered in black mold. They tore out more, more mold, etc. Until the bathroom was gutted, as was the laundry and the floor under the kitchen. Many months of cleaning, a long story of homelessness and two years of a law suit later, we seem to have arrived in the same place.

Seriously?

For the first two years of living in our current house, I was finally becoming healthy again. Yay! Then, a year ago November my “illness” returned. I felt similar to that first year in what we “affectionately” call “the mold house.” But there were no visible signs. No musty smells. We had some leaking faucets and a pretty substantial crack in our shower that seemed a potential for mold, but with no clear evidence, we passed it off as winter colds, and me pushing myself too hard in a busy life. Stresses contributed. Family loss and troubles with a couple of our kids. You know. The usual stuff. But I became more ill. A plumber finally fixed the leaks and “sealed” the crack in the shower. Never mind the now obvious water marks on the ceiling below said shower. I became sicker. I started a symptoms log. In addition to the first illness symptoms, there were others. Awful itching, blistering rashes, choking congestion, stomach pain.

I went to doctors.

One said I had rheumatoid arthritis even though I had no common symptoms and blood tests were clear. More blood tests. No clear diagnosis. A friend recommended a naturopathic doctor who ended up being a life saver. Through diet, rest and supplements I began to feel like life was returning. But not fully. I can’t seem to get past the 75-80% mark. I still need a nap each day. I’m tired, dizzy and have headaches often. I can’t exercise or be around too many people at once without exhaustion setting in. Or if I can, I end up paying the next day.

Then our son broke out in a terrible rash.

With no known cause, he had hives from head to toe and ended up having an emergency room visit one night after vomiting, fainting and shaking. He now has to use an inhaler before exercise for allergy induced bronchial spasms. Our daughter became ill with sore throats and extreme fatigue (okay so she’s a teenaged girl, but still…). Brendan and I hated to think it, but the only common thread was the dreaded mold. Next door, construction of a new apartment complex had been going on since November where they had torn down a few very old buildings. Could that have contributed as well? Now we noticed two growing water stains on our bedroom ceiling…

We finally did mold testing last week.

I guess its good and bad when you hope for the answer to be positive for something. You hope to have an answer. But you dread the answer. We have mold growing in our house. No wonder we have all struggled this year feeling terrible. We’re still waiting for the detailed test results.

After hours of research, I found information about essential oils killing mold.

Natures Mold Rx by Dr. Ed Close, explained through numerous case studies how mold had been eradicated in buildings and homes by diffusing a blend of essential oils over long periods of time. I felt hopeful for the first in a long time. Within a week, I had two diffusers going – one upstairs and one down – in an effort to bring health to our home. At first, it seemed to help. After blasting our air for eight hours, we were breathing a little better. I stopped having choking fits at night. Our kids felt better. But then I quit running the diffusers all the time. I decreased it to a few hours, a couple of times per day. This week I’ve not felt well at all. Same symptoms again.

Discouragement set in.

As of this writing, we are wondering about moving. About how to deal with our landlord. Again. About cleaning our things and finding a house free of mold. It’s a daunting and exhausting situation. One that I keep reminding myself God has an answer for.

I’ve learned so much this past year and a half of illness. I’m grateful for all the Lord has taught me, shown me, and how I’ve learned to rest in him. But I’m also ready to move on. I long to be healthy and active again. To take a walk and make dinner without feeling done in. I thought this week of my blogger friend Bill, and wondered how I could even think of complaining when he has such an amazing attitude while being in his constant state of illness. He wrote a great blog recently about purpose. I’m thankful for the challenge in my perspective. I also want to act with wisdom where I can take steps in faith to act.

I write this because it has been hugely encouraging me to read about other people’s stories. To discover I’m not crazy, nor suffering alone. And to say thanks for being with me…

Have you experienced any of the same situations?