What Does Sufficient Healing Mean? A Writer’s Story

What does it look like to be sufficiently healed? That is the question I asked while writing the two workbooks (soon to be launched into the universe). What does sufficient mean? Sufficient – according to Miriam-Webster, the definition is “enough to meet the needs of a situation or a proposed end”. Let’s go with “enough for the situation”.

What does it look like to be healed enough for the situation – in the case of “Wound Proofing Your Writing Practice” – it means to be healed enough, whole enough to undergo the publication of whatever your mind and heart creates. Whether a memoir, like mine in “Finding My Damascus” to the beautiful nonfiction story collection I have swimming in my head and heart, “Uprooting The Family Tree” – writers need to be sufficiently healed to share the story of truth without opening old wounds or creating new ones. This could be anything from a past traumatic event to getting one’s nose out of joint when an editor asks for changes (oh, it happens).

Here is the thing – writers are emotional creatures – at least I am, and it has taken years of being in business and workplace situations to toughen up. I am an empathetic introvert after all, so if I can do it – anyone can. I listened to God’s leading, and for those of you who are not on a spiritual journey, bare with me – He makes a lot of sense.

I wrote the first workbook for all writers. It is filled with healing practices, exercises, and discussion. This was the precursor to the second workbook. The first, “Wound Proofing Your Writing Practice” will be launched on Amazon in July 2018. The next, “Tending the Beloved: Healing Wounds Into S.C.A.R.s.” will be available in the fall of 2018.

Each addresses the question, “What does it look like to be sufficiently healed” in the situation in which we find ourselves and how do we get there from where we currently stand? The answer is the quest itself – the journey to discover our deepest wounds and what it will take to sufficiently heal, then doing the hard work to get there.

To stay focused despite outside influences, I go back to Monte Python’s “The Holy Grail” scene in which God is speaking to King Arthur about His idea of the quest for the Holy Grail.  “What a good idea, Lord,” says Arthur. “Of course, it’s a good idea,” quips the Lord, like “how could you think otherwise because My plan is perfect” Psalm 18:30.

For those with the courage to embark on this quest, I wish you patience and strength, discernment and healing. We are all works in progress aiming to find that “Holy Grail”. Let’s march onward.

Hold Up A Minute…Where Am I? An RA Story

Have you ever been on the trail and gotten turned around? Have you read a map wrong and gone way off from where you intended? Boy, I have. I enjoy hiking, when my body cooperates. My map reading skills are not as good as I think – especially as I get older. When Greg and I went hiking with his son Corey last summer, I was the map reader although I was not the leader of the pack.

Greg led after glancing at the map and understanding the terrain, elevation, and direction the map laid out. (see photo) I followed with the map in my hand forcing my brain to understand what I was seeing on the trail compared to the facets of the map. I got confused. “Hold up,” I said, “Let me get my bearings.” They patiently stopped for a while along a ridge and waited for me to get my head straight.

Slowly, I traced my finger along the path and looked at the elevation and distance to see where we were standing along the trail. We were not even close to where I thought we were on the map. I asked Greg to help me see our exact location – he looked over my shoulder and pointed to where we stood. I saw it instantly – on the ridge, facing northeast, headed back to Kings Gap Mansion where we parked. How could I not see that? It was so clear.


Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece about starting injections for treating my Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is a big adjustment. My doctor laid out the plan at our last appointment – go to injections for both Humira and Methotrexate, stop the Xeljanz.  I let her know I was unsure if Xeljanz was even doing anything and was good with the plan.

After I posted my blog about the changes, I broke down. I cried over the path I was on. I looked at Greg and said, “I feel terrible, I don’t like this. I am scared of Humira and all its side effects. Are we doing the right thing? I shouldn’t have this much anxiety over it.” He said, “I don’t know what to tell you, but you do need to reach out to your doctor.”

Put the parking brake on! Time to take assessment of this medical path!! I messaged my doctor about the anxiety, what was happening to my body and asked for a new direction.

“I think we skipped a step,” I said in my message, “Let’s take a few steps back and NOT do the Humira injections. I feel like we need to give Xeljanz another chance and still do the Methotrexate shots.”

She agreed, and reminded me I was the one who thought the OTHER medication was not working well.  So the path now – weekly Methotrexate injections and take the Xeljanz pills twice a day. Good thing too! My latest labs results showed the “bad” liver levels doubled while on Humira.

Am I on the right path once more? Pretty sure it’s a yes, but there is an ever changing landscape out there – research, nutrition and medical studies to help care for chronically ill bodies. Just this week, a report was published on the positive effects of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and autoimmune disease – yeah!

This is a journey – in need of a map and someone to help me navigate it when the map doesn’t make sense. My prayer from two weeks ago was answered – changes have been made and I pray God will continue to guide me. He is the ultimate navigator with great people willing to show me where I am on the map.

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
Psalms 94:19 NLT

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.

What If My Dream Comes True? A Believer’s Story

Dreams – mine are vivid, complex, and at times, weird.  Some, I am aware I am dreaming, but this happened only a handful of times. The last one I had was in February of this year. I am 85-ish years old and I pop into a scene in the library of our home, mine and Greg’s, however, he has already gone to Heaven. I am alone.

I feel grief as I sit on the grand overstuffed couch in the white shelved library. My eyes wander the extensive collection of his books as I rest in front of the quiet inactive fireplace. Sitting in this space brings me comfort in my widowhood. I realize this is a dream, a life moment in time travel. I jump into the story to explore what life may be like: my body, my thoughts, my home, my family. I take an assessment before the movie reel runs out and I wake to real life.

My Dream Life:  

My body: I am walking with no assistance – remarkable to be in my 80’s and not need a walker, cane or wheelchair since Rheumatoid Arthritis is a “progressive disease”. My body is old, but it still works fairly well. I wear a blouse and skirt, comfortable shoes, hair up although I don’t think to find a mirror to see my face.
My thoughts: I am grateful for the marriage Greg and I shared for 30+ years. I miss him dearly, but know I will see him again. I use his library to connect with memories and feel close once more – it’s been a few years, but grief peeks its head in again from time to time. This is the only sadness I experience.
My home: I have a view of the mountains from a quiet neighborhood, probably on a hill or rise. I can walk to most any place I need, the pharmacy, doctor, restaurant, and grocery store. The house is older, renovated, but not extravagant. There is a private patio out back to enjoy nature. The front yard has old trees and a sidewalk in need of repair. I realize Greg had set up a handyman service for me to call on in case I need such things done.
My family: My youngest great-granddaughter is already in the living room, likely she spent the night. She has red hair and is about 11 years old. I stand at the front door and see someone approaching.  The other great-granddaughter, about 13 years old, lives close and walks with her mother up to the front door. The girls love each other dearly and sit together on the floor in close activity over something I cannot see, a book, tablet, who knows by then. The mother smiles and heads back out to walk home. I ask the girls, “Would you like to go get some breakfast this morning?” They look up and smile at me. A walk to the local diner is in order today and I am content.

I wake up. What if this dream is my future reality? or what if it’s not? No matter. The dream gives me hope. It shows a quiet, meaningful life in my end days. My health is good – whether through miracle or medical advances – my body functions well. It encourages me to impact my family with love, grace, and be a spiritual example. It redefines purpose in my marriage to continue to be the godly wife and partner God asks of me and have a deeper thankfulness for my husband.

I am good with this vision of a life well lived, a race well run, and enjoying my end days walking with my great-grandchildren in love and grace, watching them play, eating breakfast at a diner, and enjoying their smiling faces.  Only God knows how my life will end. I trust He has a grand plan – He always does. This one looks grand enough for me.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  2 Timothy 4:6-8 NIV

BIG Adjustment – Injections: An RA Story

Photo: Myriam via Pixabay

God bless those who give themselves injections daily to live – like diabetics. Without the injections the person’s blood sugar level would harm their body. I remember my former brother-in-law who gave himself insulin injections every morning in his stomach, pricked his finger twice a day to check blood sugar levels, and gladly did so to stay alive. He didn’t die from diabetes complications, he passed away from cancer 21 years ago February 13th.

On the last Monday of March, I started Humira injections and then began Methotrexate injections the following Thursday. The culprit in this change to shooting medicine into my flesh? My liver and pancreas – temperamental buggers. The last lab reports showed my Rheumatologist that pills going through my digestive system were not being well received – injections would bypass the system (in theory) and lab results should improve.

I need my liver and my pancreas – both are vital, but one I can’t live without, the other, I can do like my former brother-in-law or my father, who has type II diabetes, and take more medicine. The injections are worth a shot (pun intended).


vaccination-2722937_1920I don’t mind needles – I have lab work done once a month and the lab techs at Penn State Hershey are fabulous – meaning the needle barely hurts and I never get bruising. Those are the standards I want to live up to when giving my own injections: No or little pain and no swelling or other side effects at the injection site. How do I do this? Follow instructions.

  1. Choose an injection site: stomach on either side of the belly button or one of the upper thighs. (site of choice now is upper thigh as lower stomach felt like a bee sting)
  2. Use a glorious amount of rubbing alcohol on the injections site.
  3. For Humira, it’s a pen so point and shoot. HOLD in place until the yellow flag appears in the pen and discard in Sharps Container.
  4. For Methotrexate, remove needle from package, fill syringe with 0.5 ml of liquid methotrexate, inject needle in site, and press plunger to deliver medicine. Cap needle and discard in Sharps Container.
  5. BREATHE!

Even now, reading these steps gives me ANXIETY and here is why – WHAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK! What if, after all of this effort, decision making, new skills of giving myself shots, etc. – either my lab results don’t improve or my quality of life doesn’t improve. These are the risks of going through a decision like this, but now comes the FEAR – WHAT IF I SUFFER THE HORRIBLE SIDE EFFECTS LIKE I HEAR ON TV (and in the pamphlet and from my Humira RN and my doctor)?

There are so many what ifs now. At some point, I will resolve myself and trust in God to guide me to do the right thing. I don’t know for sure if I am on the right track, yet I know this to be a part of the Chronic Disease management process. I will face anxiety and fear and ultimately depression as each phase of the process proceeds. I will get through it with God’s help.


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Last night, laying in bed because my energy was depleted by 6 pm, I prayed. I prayed through the fear of side effects, through the anxiousness of wondering whether this new medicine and method are worth it, begging Jesus to help me feel better – even praying for healing if that be His will. Until I know whether this is the right path – I will pray, and pray, and pray. And keep shooting medicine into my body, and eating well, sleeping well, moving well and living well. This morning, I woke up to a new day and that is good enough. Amen.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.

 

MOVE for Pain: An RA Story

Movement – yeah, right!  Not when it hurts, dude. Racing my older brother on the street and he thought he was way ahead of me. Without looking, he cut me off trying to win by taking a short cut. My front tire hit his back tire and I flipped over both bikes sliding across the pavement. Skinned hands and knees, my body burned and ached. My left knee was painful and looked out of place. I cried and laid by the ditch. A teen aged girl from the community pool was walking with friends and picked me in her arms. She carried me home with a trail of kids following, last of which was my brother.

The X-rays showed torn ligaments and tendons under my knee cap, an injury requiring a bent cast and rest. I started fourth grade on crutches, left leg frozen in a quarter tucked position, and pain. When the cast was removed weeks later, my physical therapy was climbing trees and riding my powder blue steel-framed white banana seat bike again. I guess physical therapy wasn’t prominent in the 1970’s.

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A year and a half ago, I spent the summer in and out of bed after suffering bout after bout of Rheumatoid Arthritis flare-ups. There were days when climbing the stairs was more than my body wanted to accomplish. After months of struggle and inactivity – because it hurt – it being every joint, every muscle, even my chest and neck, the pain made my injury at nine years old seem like nothing.

When my husband, Greg, suggested we think about getting some cleaning help around the house, I balked. How could he suggest I needed help? Was my physical condition so far gone we had to pay someone to care for our home? I had a choice: Accept how things as they were, be resolved to the fact that the pain was winning and my inactivity, aka rest, was my fate – OR – Do something to get better. I chose the latter. At the direction and support of my Rheumatologist, physical therapy was my response. I had to learn to move again.

The pain changed how I walked, as if I still carried a crooked cast on my leg once more. I had little strength in my hands and dropped things – not simple objects, either. More like full bowls of oatmeal and freshly made jumbo cups of coffee. Ugh – and the stairs – just walking up the stairs left me in hurting and breathless. I was becoming an invalid and invalid at 49. Hence, physical therapy twice a week for six weeks.

The young doctor, fresh out of the University of Pittsburgh, worked with me to evaluate my strength, flexibility and abilities. He promised to tailor-make a regimen to get me as close to normal as possible.

“What are your goals?” he asked to help in the evaluation.
“To vacuum my house and climb the stair without difficulty,” was my wish. Telling of my decline.
“We will get you there, Mrs. Williams,” he affirmed.

Funny thing about physical therapy – it reminded me of my recovery at nine. I climbed and rode, along with other strength training exercises. I climbed the stairs and practiced going up and down using proper form – like climbing the huge pine tree behind our Cape Cod in 1977. And I rode the stationary bike. Gratefully, the seat was much wider than the banana seat of my old Schwinn, but the motion of peddling reminded my of the freedom in a good bike ride.

“Movement is key,” the young doctor advised as I sat on the exam table in the third week of therapy. He explained, “Your muscles reduce inflammation by flushing out waste allowing the body to carry the toxins away. Drinking water, stretching, all good things for muscles. Joints, however, are different. The way to remove inflammation, besides medication, is to MOVE. Movement causes the joints to expel inflammation, and pain reduction will follow.”

We talked through the physical techniques and the emotional and mental aspects of pain management to come up with two good do-it-yourself at home therapy plans – one for those days when I had a flare up and another plan for when I did not. Each focused on stretching, strength training, and movement. Done routinely and consistently, my body would respond with better mobility, reduced pain, increased balance – a pretty normal life. And it has.

Despite what my body wants to do, what it’s trained to do, which is “pain recovery equals rest”, my brain learned to override what the body signals were saying and do the right thing. Move for pain, move for pain, move for pain – when it comes to inflammation in the joints – M O V E is the prescription. The counter intuitive action helps me have a better quality and more active life. I am grateful for that knowledge and carry it with me as I move through each day. The pain still comes – but I know what to do.

RESOURCES:
Best Exercises for Rheumatoid Arthritis – Arthritis Foundation

Rehabilitation Management for Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients – Johns Hopkins Arthritis Medicine

BOOKS:
For any fitness level and situations for strength training – comprehensive step-by-step exercise manual by  Carol Corning Creager, PT:

Therapeutic Exercise Using Resistive Bands (Therapeutic exercises) by Caroline Corning Creager, 1999

Therapeutic Exercises Using Foam Rollers by Caroline Corning Creager, 1996 

READY TO FIND A PHYSICAL THERAPIST?
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)  Find a PT allows you to search a national database of physical therapist members of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) for the exclusive purpose of seeking physical therapist service.

Or contact your insurance provider to find a physical therapist in your area and covered in your network.

DISCLAIMER: Hey, don’t take my word for it! Go seek the advise of your physician before making any medical decisions.

 

 

 

Our Expert Advocates: An RA Story

I sit here writing on Deck 5, in a lounge chair next to my husband, Greg, on our sixth cruise. This time, a two-week meandering through the Southern Caribbean. Although the islands we visited have distinct similarities, each one is identifiable by the culture and characteristics.

St. Lucia, for example, has the beautiful Pitons peaks and at their base, an active caldera bubbling a lethal dose of muddy sulfuric steam. The locals have turned the nearby blackwater streams into therapeutic baths for which tourists can immerse themselves for a fee. Taxis and busses travel endlessly carrying travelers through the seaside fishing villages to line up for a mud slather or a dip in the mineral laden waters.

The day we visited the island, our tour guide LaToya, offered a hypnotic and tranquil dissertation of the island’s history, culture, and botanical offerings. Our taxi driver, Steven, knew every turn and how to navigate the treacherous potholes lining the road. Through the mountainous switchbacks, Steven drove the bus full of Americans to see the island on which he was born and raised. LaToya lulled us into relaxation on the 3-hour island tour. We stopped off in a small fishing village with beautiful people, happy and friendly, full of life and peace.

Would we have known as much of the island of St. Lucia, its culture and history, if we had not had the expert advocates at the helm? I would say no, not even close. The day was worth the time and money spent to have professionals guide us along the way, answer questions, and reveal details we never knew, and show us places we otherwise would never have seen – especially the little fishing village.

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This is how it should be for those living with Chronic Disease: we need an expert advocate team – specialized physicians in the field who know the intricate details about the disease, how it affects the whole body, and what the latest treatments and therapies are out there to help treat the patient. I have the expert advocate team now, but I didn’t always.

In 2003, I began my quest to find out why I was having debilitating pain and symptoms that interfered in my life. My skin was on fire most of the time, I had fatigue, and terrible pain in my head, neck, shoulders and on. I went to my family doctor, who then sent me to a neurologist, then an endocrinologist, then a gynecologist (seriously), back to a neurologist, then another. The last neurologist was head of Neurology at a teaching hospital in Richmond, VA.

Test after test after test, MRIs – nothing; CT scan – nothing; spinal tap – nothing; blood work – mostly normal. Sounds like it was all in my head, right? Well, the teaching hospital gave me a psychoanalytical test to find out if it was all in my head – I am perfectly sane. I have to paperwork to prove it.

Finally, an intern spoke up, “Why don’t you go see a dermatologist since most of this is inflammation in your skin?” Sounded great, I hadn’t see a dermatologist before and it couldn’t hurt to see one more specialist since none of the others had any answers.

The dermatologist visit was short. She came in to the exam room, listened to my complaints, and without looking at any of my tests, patient records, or radiology readings, she diagnosed me. It took five minutes – she walked out then came back with a medical book, flipped it open and said, “You have burning skin. I saw a few cases in my residency in Texas. You have Erythromelalgia.”

She was the first doctor I had seen that gave my condition a name. The medical book with an explanation gave me validation that I wasn’t losing my mind. I thought she was a genius. She prescribed a new medication used for nerve pain and I began a five-year stint of feeling better. The only thing remaining was the fatigue. This was in 2007, four years after the first visit to my family doctor.

In early 2013, the nerve pain meds began wearing off, something I had not expected and had not heard from my dermatologist – whether she knew that information or not, I will never know. The pain was no longer in my skin, but in my joints – deep in my muscles, and the fatigue was enervating. After two months, I made the decision to get second opinion (or was it the 8th opinion – I lost count).

After some searching, I found an Internal Medicine physician – best decision ever – he was an expert on the overall inner workings of the body – he was the driver of the bus and knew the intricate navigation needed to get me to where I wanted to go – back to a healthy life. I will call him Dr. Coach, head coach of my overall health.

Dr. Coach said, after he heard my history, “I know you have been through a lot, but I want to do my own tests and see where we are, then I can give you a better idea of what we are going to do going forward with your health.”

More bloodwork – new bloodwork (did I mention the dermatologist only saw me every two years to renew my prescription with no bloodwork?). The new labs showed I had the beginning stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Dr. Coach would not rule out my previous diagnosis of Erythromelalgia without additional testing – specifically genetic testing. I scheduled an appointment to have the genetic testing done.

The medicine the dermatologist prescribed five years prior was called Mexiletine, an anti-arrhythmia drug normally used for heart patients. Dr. Coach was not pleased I was taking this medication and advised me to go see a Cardiologist in his network. So I did.

I had one visit with Dr. Cardio, who immediately took me off the medication and hooked me up to an EEG machine. He said, “This medication you’ve been taking – well, we only prescribe that to cardiac patients who have not responded to any other treatment and will die without it. That’s how strong it is – and you don’t have any heart issues but keep taking it and you could.” The EEG showed my heart was fine and I threw the medicine out.

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Back to Dr. Coach – the genetic testing results showed I did NOT have Erythromelalgia. He made notes in my chart and advised me to make an appointment with a Rheumatologist in his network. I did that too. Dr. Rheuma put me on Plaquenil, the very beginning treatment for RA.

These doctors were all on the same team – same healthcare system, same electronic health record, and could see what the other physicians were inputting into my chart. Just like the tour guide and the bus driver on St. Lucia, they worked in tandem – each having a specialty yet working together to provide the best care.

A year and a half later, I moved from my team of doctors in Virginia to Pennsylvania and had to start all over again. I didn’t know where to begin so I looked up a Rheumatologist – with one healthcare system – and a local family physician – another healthcare system and set up appointments. This time, though, I had discernment. I knew what an expert advocate team looked like and I wasn’t going to settle for less.

After several visits with each, I “fired” both. I found a great team of doctors at a teaching hospital in Hershey, PA. The drive is a little further, but their expertise, complementary efforts in my care, and holistic philosophy are worth the extra miles on the minivan. They are my expert advocate team – they help navigate this complicated twisted and winding road called Chronic Disease.

Resources: I just finished reading “Lies My Doctor Told Me” by Ken D. Berry, MD – well written and a great guideline for talking with your own doctor about your health.


Our spiritual expert advocate team? Well, easy – the Holy Trinity: God The Father, God The Son, & The Holy Spirit. Trust your Expert Advocate Team to guide and instruct you through the mountains and valleys of your spiritual life.

What DNA Told Me: An RA Story

Last year, my husband, Greg, and I bought the kits you see advertised on TV to test DNA and offer a look into our ethnicity. The analysis revealed mostly what we already knew of our ancestry, and introduced us to our distance ancestors and their heritage. For Greg, Eastern European was a given with his Great-Grandparents immigrating from Zatvarnika, Austria, now Poland. His family’s history of immigrating Irish in the mid-1850’s showed up in his 30% Irish DNA.

My heritage is 45% German/French (European West), with a descending amount of Great Britain, Spanish, and Irish/Scotland/Wales:

Research on DNA and siblings reveals we may have a different concoction of ethnicity, even though we came from the same set of parents. My sister, Lynn, may be more of a percentage of Irish/Scotland/Wales, and my sister, Sheila, more of Great Britain descent. My brother, Chris, may have had more German/French ethnicity than us all, but we will never know. Chris passed away from a heart-attack at age 49 in August of 2015.

Greg and I found a comprehensive website to upload our raw DNA and receive, for $5, a health analysis of DNA to reveal genetic markers for specific diseases – www.promethease.com. Promethease takes raw DNA data and compiles a report through data supplied by SNPedia.com, a wiki investigating human genetics. The report is for personal and educational purposes only and does not provide diagnostics of actual diseases (full disclaimer on the website).

I was curious and used it to determine certain risk factors I may need to look out for – especially with a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. Greg, who is 57 years old and has very few health issues, wanted to see his genetic factor for Alzheimer’s or other diseases that may impact his life. The highest risk genetic factor was Male Pattern Baldness – and he has a full head of hair. He laughed at the result.

My report included higher risk factors for Rheumatoid ArthritisCoronary Artery Disease, (likely so did my brother), Type 2 Diabetes, and Prostate Cancer. Both my father, who is cancer free 8+ years, and his father, my Granddad Howard, had prostate cancer. I seem to be a carrier of the gene, but still looking into what this may mean for a female. Then there are the two odd ones:

1.) My body may not produce appropriate levels of Tyrosine, and therefore low levels of dopamine – I now take a supplement called L-tyrosine; and
2.) My body may not be able to detoxify byproducts of medications, i.e. certain antineoplastic and immunosuppressant drugs – my Rheumatologist and I monitor my blood work carefully and thoughtfully.

These revelations were helpful and I took them as they were intended – as supplemental information. My cardiologist checked the health of my heart – passed a stress test with flying colors this past summer; I eat a healthy diet and watch my weight – to counter my disposition for diabetes – yet I still may develop it one day; and I see my Internal Medicine physician, who is my Expert Advocate, to keep an eye on overall health and work with my Specialists, cardiologist, rheumatologist, dermatologist, etc. to maintain my best health.

This is how God made me, designed through the genetics passed down from generation to generation on my mother’s side and my father’s side. I am mindful of the DNA which is the foundation for my physiological makeup. I use the information to make wise choices, without emotion or great anxiety. It is a manual on what MAY go wrong along the way, but not a definitive factor in WHO I truly am – God’s perfectly made being. I have peace with how He made me, risky genetics and all.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
~ Psalm 139:14 NIV

Guilt is a Cruel Master: A Believer’s (& RA) Story

Yeah, I can’t do the things I was able to prior to having a chronic disease. I was a Youth Leader at church, I could travel to my mother’s for a weekend hike, and I cleaned my house twice a week. On Saturdays, I could rise at 7:00 a.m. and work through the morning and afternoon deep cleaning, dusting, vacuuming until everything sparkled.

Now, Rheumatoid Arthritis interferes with how much of the house gets cleaned.  My husband, Greg, travels for work and when the weekends come, I aimed to have the house spotless so we can spend time together. On the weeks when my arthritis and fatigue win the battle, chores are left undone.

One Friday evening, Greg arrived from the airport with a suitcase in tow. I had a rough week and didn’t get to the normal kitchen or floor cleaning as I wanted. He dropped his stuff in the office and with a quick hello and kiss, he cleaned. As I watched him scour the counters and sweep the floor, while my emotions rose.

Now, most women would say, “Are you nuts? What’s wrong with that?  I wish cleaning would cross my husband’s mind just once!” Ok, ladies, I get it. Hang in here with me.

As Greg cleaned, feelings of guilt and worthlessness arose. I picked up a cloth and began cleaning around him, as if in competition. The stew of emotions boiled over into anger. Greg glanced sideways at me and kept on cleaning.

Feelings of insecurity and worthlessness were sparked by guilt over my chronic disease; I thought, I am not keeping our house clean, he thinks I’m not good enough. I’ll show him. And anger towards my husband ensued.

This was nuts!! Why was I getting angry at him for cleaning?? “Good Lord above, help me please,” I yelled in my heart, “This is not me – this, this GUILT, and anger!” I took a deep breath and forced my emotions to simmer down. I had to talk about this – NOW.

“Greg,” I began while he paused from his cleaning. “I feel terrible you clean. I should have finished all of this already. I started cleaning around you because I feel so inadequate. When you travel, I want nothing left undone when you come home. When you clean, I feel like I am not good enough. I didn’t have the energy this week to get the chores done and I am sorry.”

Greg put down the cleaning rag, looked at me and said, “I didn’t mean for you to feel that way. I came home after a long trip knowing you have been in pain, yet still working full-time and caring for the house. I feel guilty and needed to do my part. That’s the only reason I am cleaning – I needed to help you.”

Greg didn’t cause the wound I was feeling. My anger at him was unjustified. My own guilt and inadequate feelings were stemmed from mourning and loss of my former self – hiding just under the surface. I saw how guilt can creep in and interfere with the wonderful marriage Greg and I share? Just like that! If I allowed it to fester, it would have created discontent and problems between us when there were none.

God adjusted my perception of the situation and showed me how much GUILT can affect me, and how I need to share my feelings with my husband. Greg was not my enemy, he was and is my partner. Talking with Greg and sharing what I was feeling made the guilt dissipate. Do I still feel guilty when he cleans? Not so much anymore, but it still tries to creep in. I recognize it and tell it to go away – as I thank Greg for wiping down the counters and running the vacuum cleaner.

“And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
~Hebrews 10:21-23

 

 

 

Ghosts: The Holy One

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge found redemption in his hauntings. Upon awakening, the power of the Holy Ghost prevailed with a change of heart, a repentant spirit, and a focus on others instead of himself. He found the Fruit of the Spirit – the Holy One – the true way to celebrate Christmas and be the gift of the season to others.

The true meaning of the season is Jesus – allow the Holy Ghost to take over all others ghosts and put them in their proper place. Know the Ghost of Christmas Past, but leave it there; understand the Ghost of Christmas Present and BE present; contemplate the Ghost of Christmas Future and plan for change to make future Christmases more in alignment with Christ.

The Holy Spirit should be flowing through our homes and our hearts this time of year. We should see glimpses of the Holy in our gatherings and moments with friends and family. Our atmosphere should reflect the conductivity of God’s Presence, a welcoming of the newborn Christ, and  the immersion of the Divine dwelling with us. This is a time to be fully haunted by the only ghost deserving to exist in our lives – the Holy One.

Upon his Ascension, Jesus left us with this gift – this ghost – the Holy Spirit to guide us, advocate for us, and to be our constant companion on His behalf. Let this Christmas Eve be the doorway to allow the Holy One into our lives, open wide our hearts and beseech the Holy Ghost inside. Let the Holy be our constant companion throughout the year, the relentless Love that God has for each of us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Ghost change us to be the gift of the season to others.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
~John 14:26 KJV

Ghosts: Christmas Future

In Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Future gave Ebenezer Scrooge an ominous glimpse of what was in store for his future – as it existed under his current life choices. Bleak, dismal, lonely – it was Hell. He saw his own death and the reaction of those involved in his life – from relief to opportunistic.  Could not one person be mournful for his passing? And the fate of Tiny Tim – could that not also be changed? Ebenezer was sorrowfully incredulous. The outcome of his life, and of those around him, depended sole on his choices.

Upon his “awakening” from the night-filled haunting, he chose to be different. He chose redemption and repentance – he no longer wanted to live the lonely, pitious life he led. On that glorious Christmas morning and all the days ahead, he chose love, joy, peace, tolerance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and mindfulness. He chose the fruit of the spirit – a direct charge from Galatians 5:22-23.

Doing the same thing, expecting different results – year after year after year. If we want to see changes in our Christmas Season, we need to start looking within. It takes time, effort and commitment to choose to live in the fruit of the spirit – a mindfulness of where our thoughts and emotions are leading us and a consorted effort is reining in those that do not match up.

Here are some questions to ponder this week as we head towards Christmas Day.

  • How do we rob ourselves and others of the joy meant for the Season by fretting over those things we cannot control?
  • What opportunities are we missing to partner in God’s work by solely focusing on those plans we have set forth?
  • How can we change the pattern of stress and discord?
  • How can we support someone who is going through a difficult time this year?
  • What opportunities do we have to join God in His work during the Advent Season?
  • What steps can we take in the next week, month, and year to ensure this and NEXT Christmas is more aligned with God’s intention for the Season?

I pray our old “Ebenezer” patterns are broken this year and a new, renewed Fruit of the Spirit is instilled within each of us – for the days, months, and years ahead for a more meaningful and Christ-filled Christmas Season.

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins. 
Matthew 1:21 NIV

Resources:

Managing Stress:

HOW TO KEEP CALM THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

CoryLebovitz.com

Developing volunteers and those who lead them

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Maggie Rowe

this is an archived blog

B Is for Blessed!

Embracing God's Grace Daily

CoryLebovitz.com

Developing volunteers and those who lead them

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

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