Beside Still Waters (My Health Crisis – Part 1)

ImageFALL 2012
I went to my naturopath and complained of fatigue. She gave me some supplements to take to support my adrenals. I also noticed that I was experiencing a lot of joint pain after eating too much sugar and/or chocolate. I still ate it occasionally.
 
DECEMBER 2012
I went to the doctor for heart palpitations. Did an EKG, it was normal. Talked about me going on a heart monitor, but the palpitations seemed to settle down on their own.
 
JANUARY – MAY 2013
In January I was hit hard with the “flu”. It started with really extreme joint pain for a few days, then a fever, upset stomach, and deep fatigue. I was sick for two weeks and had lingering fatigue after that. Two months later, I had the “flu”. This began a cycle of “flu” every four weeks. I was sick so frequently that my body had a hard time bouncing back between illnesses. I got more and more tired between illnesses. I often had times where I would stand up and instantly feel dizzy and faint; I would have to sit down or hold onto something so I wouldn’t fall, and I was afraid I would pass out.
 
I’ve had a growing, deep fatigue over the last few months. Back in June, I finally went to my primary care doctor, and she gave me some antibiotics to knock out this infection I seem to have in my body. At that time, she did some lab work, and discovered that I was extremely low in Vitamin B12. She had me start doing injections of B12 on a weekly basis. By the end of June, I was more deeply fatigued than ever. I remember going on a date with my husband where practically all I did was cry about how tired I was, and talk apologetically about how I was having a hard time keeping up with all my normal responsibilities.
 
MONDAY June 24
I worked at VBS that morning, and when I got home, I laid on the couch for the rest of the day. It was like that one morning had taken absolutely everything out of me.
 
TUESDAY June 25
The next day, I woke up and my muscles felt very weak and strange. I laid around most of that day, and contacted both my primary care doctor and my naturopath, hoping for insight as to whether it was caused by a B12 deficiency, or something else. It had become clear to me that there was definitely something not right in my body. 
 
WEDNESDAY June 26
The next morning, I woke up and was feeling so weak that it was actually difficult to walk. I slowly made it down the stairs. The really scary thing happened when I tried to make breakfast for my son. I could not get my hand to fully grip the knife, and I was not strong enough to actually slice the apple. I immediately started crying, because I was extremely weak, more so than I’ve ever been in my life. I cried on my husband’s shoulder when I told him about it. I went straight my primary care doctor at Kaiser that day, and she ordered a brain MRI and some other labs. Her first thought was multiple sclerosis. That night, my husband was gone at a work dinner, so I somehow forced my hands to slice and chop veggies for soup. By bedtime, my hands and arms were in pain. As I was trying to get Caleb ready for bed, I wasn’t strong enough to get the sleeves of his PJ’s over his wrists! I finally burst into tears, and my sweet boy just scooted over to me and laid his head on my chest, as if to say, “Don’t cry, Mama! I love you. It’s going to be okay.”
 
THURSDAY June 27
The next day when I woke up, I was too weak to turn the doorknob to get out of my bedroom and I had to call my husband for help. That day I was able to get in for an urgent MRI. By this point, my mom was staying at my house all day to take care of my kids. Here’s an email I sent that day to my friend and prayer partner, Val:
 
hi val, thank you so much for the prayers. the dr took me seriously and i will be having a brain mri and appt with neurologist. now i am just praying that it will be scheduled sooner rather than later, as my physical function is hampered. i’m unable to do many of the things i normally do in a day and am having to have family take care of my kids. it’s hard to type or prepare food or dress my son. but the Lord has really filled me with peace. i know that he is in control and no matter how this thing will turn out, God wins! my prayer is always for my life to bring him glory, and if this is how he chooses to do it, i’m willing. i’m clinging to 2 corinthians 4:16-18 (I think that’s it…about these light and momentary troubles). 

 
please pray that they can get me in for an mri soon. i’m not on the “urgent” list for one, which means we could be looking at days/weeks. I’ll know more in a few hours. i know an mri wont fix anything, but it would be nice to either rule things out or know what we’re dealing with here. it feels like it could be MS but I’m no doctor and there could be many things i haven’t thought of, i’m sure.

thanks so much for your love and prayers! God  has been so good to me and amidst my moments of human fear he has given me his perfect peace which passes all understanding.

 
courtney

 

 
FRIDAY June 28 
I got a call from my doctor the next day, saying that they had seen changes on my MRI from an MRI that I had had two years ago, and these changes could be consistent with multiple sclerosis. Even though I had already had four weeks of vitamin B12 injections, my doctor recommended that I begin doing B12 injections on a daily basis for five days. However, by the end of that day, I had developed a fever again, as well as extreme joint and muscle pain and a very sore throat.
 
SATURDAY June 29
I was in tears all morning from my body being in pain. I went into urgent care. There we discovered that I actually tested positive for strep throat. They gave me penicillin which I began to take immediately, and that helped with the sore throat. 
 
SUNDAY June 30
However, the next day, I discovered that my face was beginning to go numb on one side and I had patches of numbness throughout my arms and legs. I had been experiencing tingling and numbness from the beginning of this fatigue, but it was getting worse on a daily basis. Taking a shower had become traumatic for me, because I just didn’t have the strength to stay standing long enough to take a shower. When I would sit upright or stand upright, I would get very very weak and faint and short of breath.
 
MONDAY July 1 
By the next morning, I couldn’t even stay seated upright long enough to change my clothes. My mom had to help me put my bra and shirt on. I couldn’t walk, and I couldn’t move my fingers or toes independently. I could no longer text or do just about anything with my hands. If I did try to use my hands, it was very painful. My parents were practically begging me to go to the emergency room. Through many phone calls with Kaiser that morning, I was finally convinced that I should go to the emergency room. My dad tried to take me, but by the time he helped me get to the bottom of our stairs, my body simply gave out. I was done. I could not walk any further. So my mom had to call 911 and get the ambulance to take me to the hospital. All my vital signs were great, but I couldn’t even keep my eyes open, I was so exhausted. Once we were in the ER, they did a spinal tap to check my spinal fluid for inflammation, and they checked me into the hospital. They put me on the neurology floor for observation.
 
TUESDAY July 2, 2013
We worked with two hospitalists (doctors) and one neurologist during that time. I was also evaluated by a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. The neurologist spent a long time going over both of my MRI’s, the one from two years ago (when I’d had an episode of vertigo) and the one from that week. He felt that the abnormalities were not multiple sclerosis and could simply be related to migraines. I was beginning to feel convinced that I had some sort of autoimmune condition, because certainly my immune system had shown lots of weaknesses over the last several months. I asked the doctor a lot of questions along these lines (and in fact, the doctor asked what my profession was…he thought I was in the medical profession by how knowledgeably I spoke about auto-immune conditions!). But by that time, most of the illnesses that could be readily identified through a lab test had already been ruled out.
 
Finally, another doctor came in to speak with us. He sat down and spent a lot of time asking us questions and listening and talking with us. In the absence of any obvious test results pointing to one issue, he felt that it was a perfect storm of several things happening all at once: the five bad “viruses” over the previous six months, my B12 deficiency, and strep throat. He talked a lot about chronic fatigue syndrome. He was very clear and strict with my husband about the fact that I should have absolutely no family responsibilities for at least the next two weeks. He said that it would take 4-6 weeks for me to heal, and that we should be looking for a general trend of improvement over time. The physical therapist and occupational therapist had spent time watching my vital signs when I was laying down, sitting up, and standing. With the exertion that it took my body to go from sitting down to standing up, it was enough to made my heart rate double immediately. The doctor felt it was due to extreme fatigue.
 
The physical therapist was not sure whether she should release me to go home or to go to a rehab center. Hearing this, I worked very hard to convince her that my family and support system around me would do their very best to make sure that I got the rest I needed when I went home. There was no way I wanted to go to a rehab center and be away from my family! 
 
My sweet husband promised the doctor and therapists that he would take good care of me. I was released from the hospital the day after I had arrived.  They sent me home with a walker because I was so weak. My husband purchased a bath stool so that I could sit while showering. I slept on an air mattress in the living room the first couple of nights, because I was too weak to climb the stairs.
 
During the days leading up to my being admitted to the hospital, I was reminded of Psalm 23. It began to mean more to me than ever, because I really felt as though I was “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”. I pictured myself as a little girl, putting my little hand into Jesus’ great big one, letting him lead me beside still waters. We were in a beautiful green meadow, surrounded by all my favorite flowers, and I imagined myself trusting Jesus with the same trust that a child has when being led by their Father: not knowing where we were going, and not even caring, just feeling safe because I was with Him. 
 
By the time I went to the hospital, the vision had changed, because I couldn’t even picture myself walking with Jesus anymore. Instead, Jesus was seated beside the stream, and I was curled up in his lap. It was all I could do. When the fear of the future would assail me, I would bring up that vision of Jesus just holding me…safe and secure. My physical body was almost paralyzed, but I was safe in the lap of Jesus.
 
(to be continued…)

The Facebook Idol

A few weeks ago, I did something I never should have done. I sent an email.

But it wasn’t just any email. Perhaps you’ve done it before. You receive an email, and before you have time to think or pray, the next thing you know you are writing an emotional response as a knee-jerk reaction. Sometimes you catch yourself and realize that perhaps you should take some extra time to think about it before you hit “send”, and when you come back to it hours or days later, you feel complete and utter relief that you didn’t send it. That’s what I should have done. But I didn’t.

I hit “send”.

The conviction didn’t come right away. I sent it and forgot about it, for the most part. But when, five days later, the response came back to my negative, prideful missive, suddenly the conviction hit me like a ton of bricks. The unsuspecting recipient of my impulsive email had actually responded in a fairly gracious manner, but in that moment, I knew exactly where I had gone wrong.

I blame Facebook.

Well, that’s not totally fair. I actually blame the fact that I had allowed Facebook to become an idol in my life. Let me explain. Over the last few years, I have been more determined than ever to have a disciplined time of meeting with the Lord each morning. It looks a little bit different every day, but usually involves me setting my alarm at a painful oh-dark-thirty in order to get that time in before having to wake my kids up for the early school bus. I developed this habit with more discipline than ever after my son Caleb was born, because I found that my days were so difficult caring my for my little boy with extreme global developmental delays and sensory issues that I absolutely depended on that time with the Lord to give me what I needed to make it through the day without going completely nuts. However, over the last few months, I’ve been letting that time slide. It started subtly – I would peruse Facebook on my phone while in the bathroom before starting my quiet time. (I realize this is more than you really wanted to know, but it’s essential to telling the true story.) Next thing you know, I had wasted so much time in the bathroom getting caught up with the fascinating world of Facebook that I had run out of time to spend with the Lord. How quickly those precious moments ran out, after which I had nothing of value to show for them. I started staying up later than I knew was good for me and deciding to sleep a “little” later the next morning – just to catch up on sleep, just this once.  But the tiny amount of time I had allotted for myself to spend with the Lord that morning got sucked up with – you guessed it – Facebook. Before I knew it, I was feeling extremely connected with everybody I cared about – and many that I didn’t – except for One. The Most Important One.

I was lying to myself and telling myself that I was getting up early for my quiet time – but then I would let technology and social networking steal that time away. As a result, I began to feel like a ship without a rudder. I started to feel out of touch with the daily promptings of the Holy Spirit. When decisions needed to be made, I struggled to discern the right path. When a difficult situation called for extra patience, I ran out – because my cup was being emptied each day and I was desperate for a refill. When a family member needed grace, they didn’t get it from me…because I wasn’t receiving it from my Source each day.

All of this hit me that day like a head-on collision with a brick wall. I realized that without checking in with God each morning and cultivating that sweet relationship with his Holy Spirit on a daily basis, I was sabotaging my own attempts to live a godly life that brought glory to God. Before I hit “send” on that email, I should have been utterly convinced that it was what God wanted me to do (particularly since I referred to what I thought God was telling me in the actual email). Instead, it was something that came from Courtney’s sinful impulses, not from the mind of God. The Lord reminded me about Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” By allowing the “pattern” of Facebook to be ever-present in my consciousness, I was no longer being intentional about what I put into my mind, and in fact I was unintentionally conforming to the world. It’s no wonder that I sent an email full of pride, presumption, and negativity…I was not renewing my mind on a daily basis and being transformed by God’s word and Holy Spirit.

I once heard “idol” defined as anything that takes my allegiance, time, or worship away from God. Did I set out at the beginning to create an idol for myself that would take God’s place? Of course not. It happened slowly, bit by bit, choice by choice, as I began to let other things creep into my time that was reserved for God alone. Because, you see, not only did Facebook creep into those once-sacred early morning hours, but it slowly became an “escape” at all other hours of the day as well. God reminded me that only He should be my “escape”! The Psalms are full of verses about God being our refuge, our shelter, our deliverer. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Can you imagine the hopelessness you would feel if that verse read, “Facebook is our refuge and strength.” What a faulty, disappointing refuge that would be!

You may feel that this is a lot of drama about one little email. But that one little email scared me. It was a window into what I would be like without regularly feasting on God’s word and checking in with the Holy Spirit. So, once the weight of conviction hit me, I went to my knees and humbled myself before the Lord. I asked his forgiveness and claimed it. But I wasn’t allowed to stop there. The Lord humbled me further by sending me to the two different people who had been affected by this email. I had to ask their forgiveness (amid many tears), admit that I’d been prideful and impulsive, and tell them that I wished I could take back what had been said. It was too late for that, but thankfully they both extended me grace and forgiveness. The Lord used this experience to discipline me and show me where I had fallen into a pattern of sin and conforming to the world.

Every minute of the day I have the choice about what I put in my mind: something that is life-giving, or something that is not.

I resolved that day to remove myself indefinitely from Facebook. What I’ve been putting into my mind and heart instead has been life-giving Bible reading, Spirit-led prayer, and refreshing worship music. The difference it’s made to be intentional about what I put in my mind is astounding. When situations come up that take me by surprise, somehow I’m better able to handle them in a Christ-like way because I’ve recently spent time plugged in to my Source of power, wisdom, discernment, and patience.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. – Psalm 34:8

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ – Matthew 22:37

The Power of a Praying Momma

When the horrific shooting took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I was devastated. Like so many others, I was horrified at the way that evil seemed to triumph over so many of our most defenseless little ones. I thought about the fact that my own kids are growing up (very quickly) in a world where our battle is not against flesh and blood, and there are very real physical, spiritual and emotional consequences of evil. I knew I needed to get serious about praying for my kids and entering into spiritual battle on behalf of my children and their school. I wanted to pray with other moms, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

I am blessed with three children – Leila, age 8, Kinsley, age 6, and Caleb, age 4. Leila and Kinsley both attend Holcomb Elementary School in Oregon City, Oregon. My Caleb is at a special preschool for children with developmental delays, since he was born with many severe developmental delays, and he was recently diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (in addition to sensory disorders). He is not crawling, walking, talking, or chewing. I am extremely busy taking him to therapies all week, and I realized that the only way I could find a prayer group that worked with my schedule would be if I led it myself in my own home. I spent some time in individual prayer about it and the Lord led me to research Moms in Prayer. Through a Facebook group for moms of kids at our elementary school, I sent out an invitation to a prayer group at my home with a link to the Moms in Prayer website. The first week, God sent me two moms. Each of them invited more and we are now at a total of five moms, with another soon to join us next week.

It’s been amazing to see all of the answers to prayer in just the short five months we’ve been meeting. It’s so wonderful to pray for all the children represented, and then to come back the following week and get updates on how God answered our prayers. I love the way that Moms in Prayer provides all the resources we need…the booklet, the prayer sheets, the format for our times of prayer (see this Four Steps of Prayer video to learn more). One of my favorite things is that each week, we focus on a different attribute of God and center our times of praise and intercession upon that attribute.

One week in late February or early March of this year, our prayer group focus was “God is our Helper”. I prayed the prayer from Isaiah 41:13 over my daughters, and then for my son: “May Caleb know that You are his God, who takes hold of his right hand and says to him, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’ “ As I prayed this over my son, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and showed me that Caleb’s biggest problem was not his delays, or his cerebral palsy, or his brain function…it was fear. He has an extreme fear of falling, and a fear of failure, and this kept him paralyzed with fear much of the time. The Lord reminded me that fear does not come from Him! We began to pray against the spirit of fear in Caleb, and asked that the Lord would replace his fear with power, love, and a sound mind. Over the next couple of weeks, we continued to pray this way for our boy, and we watched Caleb begin to lose his fear. His confidence began to blossom! One day he actually asked to practice in his walker, which was unheard of before. Then came the day when, just few weeks later, I put him in the walker and turned away for just a moment, and when I turned back…he was WALKING by himself! Four years of lots and lots of prayer had come to a climax in that beautiful moment. I am so thankful that through our Moms in Prayer meeting, God showed me that my little boy was actually fighting a spiritual battle as well as a physical one, and he showed me just how to pray for my son! I’m also so very grateful to the other moms in my prayer group who joined the many other family members and church family members in interceding for my little boy. God heard our prayers and answered in a most amazing way. To Him be the glory!

If it were up to me, every young mom like myself would be in a Moms in Prayer group, covering her children and their schools in prayer. There is always a point in the meeting where I just sense God’s presence so strongly, and I can sense his pleasure in our prayers rising up to him. I also experience the peace that comes from knowing that when my little ones head out the door each day, they and their teachers and school are covered in prayer. And finally, it’s such an encouragement to gather and pray with other like-minded women. We have formed an amazing bond of sisterhood in a relatively short period of time, and I would not have even known these women otherwise. What a blessing to this mom!