I’ve got good news!

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I have some seriously good news. Actually, in this case, “good news” is an understatement!

Let me explain…

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of leading worship for the Moms in Prayer International event, Come to Me, held here in Oregon. Most of you reading this are aware of the health problems I had all summer long. In fact, at almost any given point up until the event, even I would have admitted it was going to be a stretch for me physically to be there and to lead. But at Come to Me, God revealed part of his purpose in allowing me to be completely laid up for the summer. He gave me a testimony to share that was a perfect fit for the theme of the conference and the teaching from Fern Nichols (founder and president of Moms in Prayer International).

I’d been told I had two minutes Saturday morning to share my testimony. Two minutes? It would have been easier had I been given twenty! God had been doing so much in my heart, mind, spirit, and body over the summer, and he’d been evident in my family’s lives as well. And editing yourself is never easy! So I asked God to give me His words, the two-minutes-worth that was most important for those women to hear that day. What follows is exactly what I shared that morning (with some tears, I admit):

“By now many of you may have already read my testimony in your packet about God’s healing of my son Caleb. (You can read that testimony here.) What I didn’t know when I wrote that testimony a few months ago was that God had more healing he wanted to do, but this time in my own life.

Just two months ago I was lying in a hospital bed virtually paralyzed.  I had gone from a chronically fatigued busy mom to suddenly being unable to walk, dress myself, or hold a glass of water with one hand, unable to text or use my fingers individually.  To the doctors I was a mystery…but God had a plan. This summer, as I lay helplessly in bed, God showed me several things:

1-      His love for me has nothing to do with what I do, accomplish, or don’t do. His love for me has everything to do with the fact that he chose me before the foundations of the world to belong to him. The Bible tells me that he delights in me, and even rejoices over me with singing, simply because I am his. This summer I really knew those words to be true.

2-      I realized that my desire for control in my life was really a lack of trust in Him. This summer, he stripped away my ability to control even the tiniest details of my life – I couldn’t even cut my own meat, for goodness’ sake – but what I gained instead was the absolute certainty that God really is good and really will take care of me as he promised.

3-      I learned that true rest is found by bringing my concerns, hurts, and sins to Jesus and allowing him to set me free. I realized I’ve been carrying burdens for many years – some big, some small – in the form of un-confessed sin and un-forgiveness towards others. This summer, I confessed and repented of each sin and renounced any foothold Satan might have gained in my life.  I asked for the Holy Spirit to heal my heart and fill me with His truth. Each time I prayed this way, the Lord lifted more of my burdens and gave me his freedom and peace in their place. And as I gained spiritual healing, I also gained physical healing!

And now, I’m here to tell you that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is still at work today, lifting burdens, healing hearts and bodies, and setting people free. Hallelujah! What a Savior!”

And that, friends, is good news. It’s VERY good news. I’d say it’s great, amazing, life-altering news!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. Matthew 9:35

Floodgates of Heaven (My Health Crisis, Part II)

Immediately after the rheumatologist entered the room and shook my hand, he said, “Well, I think you win the award for the most services received by Kaiser in the last month! I don’t think I’ve ever had a patient that’s gone through such thorough testing and is still without a diagnosis.”

“I wish I could be happy about that award,” I replied with chagrin. We continued the appointment only to conclude with yet another inconclusive result: as badly as this doctor had wanted to be The One Who Figured It Out, he could not; and so, a few more tests were ordered and I went on my merry way.

The good news? Even without a diagnosis, I am improving. This weekend, I was able to make my own smoothie for breakfast (twice!), play the piano for about 15 minutes, and even do a little bit of watering in the garden (that last one was probably not one of my better choices…but, whatever!), and these were all things I couldn’t have even imagined doing just a few weeks ago! I chalk this improvement up to a few different things:

1. PRAYER. I have never had so many people offering up so much concentrated prayer on my behalf. God loves to act when his people humble themselves and pray, and he’s certainly been acting on my behalf this summer. I will be forever grateful to my prayer warriors – many of whom I don’t even know. I myself am also learning some new ways to pray this summer. I have been taking care of some unfinished business between me and the Lord with the help of the Wellsprings prayer ministry that has also helped bring spiritual and physical healing.

2. REST. I have an UH-MAY-ZING husband, and equally amazing parents and in-laws, that have stepped up and filled in and done everything for me so I haven’t had to lift a finger. In addition, we’ve been overwhelmed by good people from the body of Christ who have helped share the load of childcare, meal prep, housework and yard work. This has allowed me to get complete physical, emotional, and spiritual rest. And it’s working! My body is slowly coming back to me. The more I rest, the more my “energy bank” gets filled up. (It empties verrrry quickly, so I have to be extremely picky about how I choose to use it up.)

3. DIET. About a week and a half after I came home from the hospital, I decided it was time to get serious about what I was putting into my body. For the last year or so, I’ve consumed a fair amount of grains (albeit gluten-free ones) and refined sugars, and I always noticed more inflammation and pain in my joints afterwards. This can be indicative of an auto-immune disease, and while I do not have an official diagnosis at this time, I decided that the one thing I could do to help myself (besides rest) was to view food as medicine and begin to eat accordingly. So, I adopted a Paleo diet and am following the 30-day meal plan for auto-immune conditions as recommended in the book Practical Paleo. I feel that it’s helped my brain to clear, my stomach and intestines to feel calmer and happier, and I have less joint pain than before.

So, things are looking up. It’s all happening too slowly for my liking, but maybe that’s the point. You see, I’m beginning to realize that I’d been operating at a very high stress level for a very long period of time. I was over-scheduled, going a million miles a minute, and under-rested. Even when I wasn’t feeling well, I would adopt a “mind over matter” philosophy and just push through. I never asked for help, because I was proud and I wanted control and I expected too much out of myself. I tried to do too much for too long, and my body finally couldn’t take it anymore. I neglected to mention in My Health Crisis: Part 1 that another subject the doctor covered while I was in the hospital was something called Caregiver Syndrome. I don’t know a lot about it, but he said it’s a very real thing that can come upon a person who has the role of a caregiver to someone with special needs. He mentioned that it could be another factor in my current health crisis.

I’ve suddenly found myself with a lot of time to think and reflect. I don’t know what it all means yet, and certainly I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know one thing: I’m going to have to change. It wasn’t easy to type that. I’m going to have to change. Sometimes we decide to change, and sometimes circumstances force change upon us. Sometimes our loving heavenly Father allows things to happen because in his infinite wisdom, he knows what’s best for us. And when we can’t see that on our own, sometimes he allows circumstances to make it very clear.

I’m feeling very much like a broken, used-up, tired old “jar of clay” right now. Everything that was once a source of my identity and pride has been stripped away for the moment. I can no longer take care of my children, my husband, my home. God has made me STOP. Stop striving, stop stressing, stop running, just…STOP. REST. It’s hard to come to that place, but you know the miracle in all of this?

God has SHOWERED his love upon me!!! He has opened up the floodgates of heaven (see verse below) and has shown me just how much he loves me! And it’s crazy, but I’m beginning to understand a bit more that it has nothing to do with what I DO or DON’T do. He has demonstrated to me that I am his beloved, and he is rejoicing over me with singing! It brings me to tears of joy. He has used so many other people to rain down his love upon us. The elderly couple from church who stopped by with tons of vegetables from their garden and a beautiful bouquet of roses. The families who bring us beautiful meals (in spite of being intimidated to cook for us with our strict dietary needs!). The friend who comes twice a week to give me foot reflexology treatments as a gift. People who have surprised us with money or gift certificates. Pastors and friends who have come over to pray for and with me. The friends who have taken my children on fun outings or given them rides. The entire small group that blitzed all my house work and yard work one Saturday. The ones who stop by with flowers or a card or books to read. The friend I only just met who helps take care of my children. The countless ladies who’ve cleaned my house, fed my son, brought me meals on a tray, done our laundry, changed Caleb’s countless diapers, played with my girls, and then asked if there was anything else they could do?…I could go on and on. Are you beginning to get the picture? Little old, tired, broken-down me certainly doesn’t DESERVE this outpouring of God’s love. He loves on me lavishly simply because I AM HIS (Eph. 1:3-10). He is helping me to receive this truth more than ever before through all these amazing people and through this unexpected season of rest.

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zeph. 3:17, NKJV)

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10 NIV)

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…)