Sunshine in the Valley

humor and encouragement from my heart to yours

“This little light of mine….”

“….I’m gonna let it shine!” Anybody else love to sing this? :) I remember it as one of my very favorites in Sunday School, growing up. When I thought of letting my light shine, I always pictured handing out tracts, or going on mission trips, smiling at those around me and having such a wonderful blessed life that others just had to know the God who had made it all possible. Such a happy wonderful thought as I sang to the cheery tune.

But is this really all the Lord meant when He told us to let our lights shine brightly before men? Is this really where our testimonies are born?

Those things are certainly good, and have their place…and it’s wonderful when the Lord chooses to bless us with beautiful things and grant the desires of our hearts. Yet where does a candle’s light most brightly shine? Where is its warm glow most seen and appreciated? In the brightness of day? In the glow of sunlight ?

We all know the answer: in the darkness.

What a different picture from the one I envisioned so many years ago! The blessings promised to those who love and obey God often do not take the form we expect. The ministry He has for us is often not where we think it will be. Our soul’s inward “cup” may be overflowing, but outward trials are often heavy and unrelenting. In some ways, this has at times been “the story of my life”. As I grew into adulthood, I had so many dreams of how the Lord would use me. (still do…nothing wrong with that!) I imagined lots of ministry work….marrying a wonderful man….raising godly children….serving in a variety of capacities both in my church and community. All of these are God-honoring dreams, and wonderful for those who find them. Yet how differently my life has turned out! There have been far more valleys than I ever imagined, and even now I fight a long-term illness that in many ways robs me of the reality of those dreams coming true…at least for now. At a time in my life when I long most for activity and ministry, I am often stuck in bed, unable to function much beyond the basics, and certainly not in a position to minister in all the grand ways I had planned. There are days when I feel totally worthless and useless to the kingdom of God and to those I love, as I often am the one needing to be served, rather than the one doing the serving.

But as I read my Bible, I find that the Lord often leads His disciples on paths contrary to what they expected. I don’t imagine the Apostle Paul envisioned himself shipwrecked or in chains in a Roman jail (especially at a time when so many churches needed him!). Yet as a result of these many trials he ended up witnessing to the highest authorities in the Roman empire and writing much of the New Testament! What an incredible purpose God had in his suffering. I could list example after example of people both in the Bible and throughout history whose greatest ministry came about through the things they suffered.

Maybe you are like me. Life hasn’t gone the way you planned, and you are facing looming trials. Maybe you’ve lost your health. Your job. A precious loved one. When we are hurting, it can be so difficult to make sense of the pain. Oft times it seems so pointless, so meaningless….from our point of view. “Lord, don’t You realize how much more I could do for You if it weren’t for ___ ?” Well-meaning fellow believers tell us that if we “just had more faith” or “were in God’s will” we would not be suffering such things.

But this is where the wisdom of God is so much higher than our own meager understanding… His ways so far above ours. In that infinite wisdom, He knows that it is in the fire, in those unspeakably difficult times, that HIS glory can shine brightest through us. Not so much on the mountaintops (though those times certainly can and do glorify Him as well), but most particularly on those days when we are so conscious of our own weakness that only HIS strength carries us through, when His grace is the only thing getting us from one hour to the next. Some of the sweetest, most precious Christians I have ever known are those who have traveled this dark path….and found His grace to be sufficient, His joy there for the taking no matter the storms of life that raged. These are the people who change the lives of those around them, not because they are “super Christians”, but because they recognize that the power to do this is not in them alone–but through Christ. Testimonies of grace in the midst of suffering make a tremendous impact for His kingdom, and though they be forged in fire, how worthy they are of the cost! Lord help me to be this Christian!

I want to close with an excerpt from “Streams in the Desert” which a dear friend sent to me. If you are hurting tonight, or struggling to see how you could be used of God in the midst of a deep trial, I hope these words will encourage your heart as much as they did mine, and remind you that often God is working most when it seems like He isn’t at all.

“Shining is always costly.  Light comes only at the cost of that which produces it.  An unlit candle does no shining. We cannot be of great use to others without cost to ourselves.  Burning suggests suffering.  We shrink from pain. We are apt to feel that we are doing the greatest good in the world when we are strong, and able for active duty, and when the heart and hands are full of kindly service.  When we are called aside and can only suffer; when we are sick; when we are consumed with pain; when all our activities have been dropped, we feel that we are no longer of use, that we are not doing anything. 

But if we are patient and submissive, it is almost certain that we are a greater blessing to the world in our time of suffering and pain than we were in the days when we thought we were doing the most of our work.  We are burning now, and shining because we are burning.”

 

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When life hands you lemons…(or Lymes…)

I have not written here in a long time. There are some very good reasons for that, but I’ve been thinking very much about how much I miss blogging. Not that I was ever a prolific writer :), but I do enjoy it. I’m thinking I should update things before continuing with other posts, though, especially in light of my last entry. Reading back over it, I smile ruefully and shake my head. I was so excited over the apparent answer that ended up being only a tiny part of the puzzle. I am thankful for the joy I experienced at that time :), but the tiny disclaimer I added (“unless there are other underlying problems we are unaware of”….) ended up being more prophetic than I imagined at the time.

I have chronic Lyme disease.

I knew very little about Lyme prior to my diagnosis, and had actually been tested for it last year with negative results. (I have since learned that this particular test misses 80% of Lyme cases) But the Lord blessed me with a doctor who investigates and researches with an open mind, and he approached me earlier this year about having further testing performed that is much more accurate than the previous test he had ordered. He strongly believed that this was the root cause of my many baffling symptoms, the answer which had eluded us for so long. I readily agreed to have further testing, and once again waited with anxious hope that maybe at last we would truly find out what was wrong.

We took this step because after a few wonderful weeks of feeling better after upper-cervical adjustments, my symptoms returned with a vengeance. I was becoming more and more debilitated, and my deteriorating condition was really scaring both me and my loved ones. Dr J sent me to a wonderful chiropractic neurologist who discovered that I was having problems in my brain stem and left cerebellum (which is why correcting my neck problem did help for a while) and eventually figured out that I was having seizures deep in my brain. We did not recognize them as such initially, because I lose all voluntary function when they occur but do not lose consciousness, unlike “typical” seizures. Something was causing certain areas of my brain to be unhealthy, and we were initially perplexed as to what it could be.

The Lyme test explained everything.

When it came back positive, and my CD-57 white blood cell count came back so low it was almost non-existent, we knew we were on to the real issue here….the true source of all my physical problems for the past 2-3 years. Borellia spirochetes were attacking parts of my brain, inducing seizures, weakness, insomnia, pain, coordination problems, and many other issues. We had a PICC line placed in my arm to begin intravenous Rocephin, and the immediate difference was nothing short of remarkable. Seizure meds alone had not kept things under control, but the antibiotics did! We were finally (finally!) attacking the root cause of everything, rather than just managing symptoms, and it could not be more clear that we were indeed on the right track.

The fight goes on, and probably will continue for the forseeable future. This will be a long journey. Some say that advanced Lyme is incurable, or at least impossible to completely eradicate, and can take months and years to get under control. I am determined to prove that wrong. :) I am taking numerous herbal supplements and have radically altered my diet, which definitely is helping. I am researching and doing all I can to beat this thing. But we are having to take it a step at a time, as treatment must be tailor-fit for each patient. Already, we have needed to change my antibiotics regimen when things began spiraling downhill again. There are days when Herxheimer reactions hit as the Lyme dies off with treatment and floods my body with poisons, causing severe pain and weakness. But I know we are on the right track! Even when I have rough days, the knowledge that we are still moving forward fills me with hope for the future. One day I will be well again! In the meantime, I savor each good day I am given….and that number has been increasing lately.

The fact that I have gotten answers in less than 2 years is something for which I am truly thankful, because as I am researching Lyme and coming across others suffering from this, I find it is unusual to find the diagnosis so quickly. Many others have gone through far worse things than I have. It may have felt like an eternity to me, but in actuality was much quicker than the norm. I have much to be thankful for.

I’m discovering, too, that new friends are to be met on this journey. Through my own story I am finding that I can relate to others going through similar illness, and help some of them find the same answers I did. This brings so much meaning to the suffering of the past couple years! God always has a purpose, a reason for these things, and I love it when He gives us even a glimpse of the big picture! :D After all, this isn’t just about me. This is about His glory and being used by Him for His purpose to help others and be a testimony of His grace, even when it involves pain and a chronic condition that I would never have chosen for myself. I’m thankful that He is always wiser than I am, that He allows pain in my life in order to reveal how deep and wide His grace is–always there the moment I need it– and how much He loves me even while letting me suffer. I see myself more clearly, too, and the areas that need work. I see the suffering of those around me in a far more compassionate and understanding way, because I have been there. I am given the opportunity to comfort as I have been comforted by God. What a privilege!

If I can be of any help to others dealing with similar problems–especially if you are still searching for answers–please do not hesitate to contact me. I would love to help, if I can! For those interested in learning more about Lyme disease, the documentary “Under Our Skin” is quite informative and is available on Netflix and YouTube.

But for those of you who are well and are finding your eyes glazing over as you read :), please don’t think this will be a blog all about my health problems. It won’t be.  Lyme may be part of my life right now, but it does not define me. I shared all this to avoid future confusion, and potentially help others who are sick, but I will be posting about many different things besides just Lyme. :) So don’t run off, k? :)

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