Ditch the Mascara

Somehow this morning, I knew that putting on non waterproof mascara was going to be a problem.  I only put it on so I wouldn’t look as bad as I feel on the inside.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me lately.  I just feel like crying.  I feel sad.    But there’s really nothing drastically different to make me feel this way.  I just want to cry.  The problem is, nobody wants to be around a crybaby, so I try to hold it in.  I feel like I’m going to explode!  I feel like running away to someplace totally deserted and scream to the top of my lungs.  No people, no phones, no civilization.  I don’t want to hear anything but quiet.

 

Maybe it’s the weather.  I don’t know.  I just keep on doing what I know to do and pray this fog lifts.  That God turns my mourning into joy.  Today is just my day to cry.

I know without a doubt that I am surrounded by people who love me and are praying for me.  I am so blessed.  I hope each of you know how much I love you.  Please don’t take it personally if I decline a coffee or lunch date.  Or cancel last minute.  It’s not that I don’t want to visit.   It’s just that the thought of having lengthy conversations is just too much for me right now.  Maybe that’s part of my sadness.  The realization that things aren’t ever going to be the same for me.

So if you happen to see me out and about and I look like hell….it’s not because I’m sick….it’s because I decided to ditch the mascara.

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That Beast Called Grief

grief

Webster defines grief as:  deep and poignant distress caused by or as if by bereavement (the state or fact of being deprived of something or someone)

In the past, whenever I heard the word grief, I would think of mourning over the death of someone.  I am learning, however, that we grieve not only over the death of friends and family, but sometimes also the loss of jobs, relationships, dreams, abilities.

And grieving doesn’t have a time limit or rules.  No one gets to tell us when grieving should occur or when it should be over or what it should be about.  Grieving is a process as individual as each of us.  We all grieve, we just may not recognize it as that.

Grief can be overwhelming, especially when those around us do not understand.  Oftentimes there is no safe place to share this grief and it gets stifled and bottled up.  But, it can’t stay there.  It won’t stay there. Grief must be released in some way or it will consume us.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve suffered many losses over the past six years.  First, my father was diagnosed with ALS and four short months later that ravaging beast took him.  So devastating.  Too quickly.  I wasn’t prepared.  Then I lost my beloved dog of 12 years, Claire.  I was awoken at 5 am to her convulsing…..I rushed her to the hospital to learn she had a brain lesion, was blind, and there was nothing that could be done.  I sat alone in that room and had to make the awful decision to let her go.  I left that place without my best friend.  Then along came Ginger.  The dog I rescued who was skinny, scared, starving.  I nursed her back to health.  She loved me so endearingly.  I only had her a short time.  She was a bonified scaredy cat and during a walk one evening, was scared away, leash still attached, as Jesse fought a dog off of Zeus.  She disappeared and was found two weeks later by a hunter in a field a couple of miles away from our house.  My poor baby died alone on a cold November evening.  Next, my mother’s devastating cancer diagnosis.  The 11 weeks she lived are filled with precious memories.  I was not ready to lose her.  Why, oh why?  Then last December,  my beloved surrogate dad, Frank was diagnosed with cancer and passed away within a couple of weeks, followed by my own ALS diagnosis.  April rolled around and my beautiful grandma Beulah went to be in the presence of the Lord.  The loss of my job, social interaction with co-workers, friendships I thought existed but are no where to be found, my voice, my ability to eat certain foods…..

So much loss.  How much more can one handle?   Just when I think I have a grip on my grief, a conversation, a thought, a memory, a new loss……. and it all rises to the surface and I become a blubbering fool.  But….I am so thankful for those safe friends who are able to withstand the wave of grief that comes crashing down on me at the most inopportune time.  For the friend who does not retreat, but listens without judging.  The friend who offers prayers without ceasing and let’s me feel the grief that washes over me.  The friend who is unwavering, nonjudgmental, loving, and kind.  The friend who doesn’t think in their mind, “get over it already” or try to give me a solution.

I don’t even understand my own grief.  I’m not asking others to either.  I don’t know when or if it will ever end.  And it doesn’t matter.  Because today I may be okay and tomorrow I may grieve over the fact that I can’t eat soup anymore.   Or that I can’t visit people as much as I would like because it’s just too hard to talk that long.  Or a song reminded me of my mom.  Or that I can’t call my dad and ask him for advice.  Or Facebook pops up with an old picture of my faithful canines-Claire and Ginger.   I know I have so much to be thankful for.  I do have joy and peace that comes from God amidst this suffering.  But having joy and peace does not mean that I still don’t grieve.  Because I do.  Everyday.

Just remember–let people feel what they are feeling.  You don’t have to have a solution.  Just lend an ear.  Pray a prayer.  Send a note.  Give permission to grieve.  Grieving is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength.  It means we are PROCESSING what is going on and that is healthy.  If I cry, I’m crying because I’m processing my feelings, it doesn’t mean I’m feeling sorry for myself.  If we allow ourselves to process our feelings, the waves begin to calm and reside and a bit more healing is realized.

The Beast is real.  It serves it’s purpose.  So next time you encounter that grieving friend, acquaintance, co-worker, family member….don’t minimize the grief.  Just let it be what it is.

2 Corinthians 4:17
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

 

Did You Really Just Say That?

The past couple of weeks I have been dealing with my personal reaction to some really insensitive remarks/conversations.  One I heard directly and one indirectly, but both have really thrown me for a loop.  I’ve had to wrestle with feelings vacillating from hurt, to anger, to sorrow.  They’ve made me cry for myself and cry out to God.  Are people really so insensitive?  Or am I just being too sensitive?  Whatever the case, I can’t shake the experience, so here I am at 5:30 am unable to sleep.  I need to get it off my chest.

I’m very, very tempted to just recount both situations in detail, but what will it really accomplish?  People are who they are.  Some are so selfish and self centered they cannot see past their own foolishness into someone else’s pain.  I feel sorry for these people.  Others are so deceived by bad theology that they have made themselves gods unto themselves.

I have ALS.  It’s an awful diagnosis to receive.  If you think I did something wrong to deserve it or that God is punishing me somehow, or if I just tell Satan that he has no control over my genetics-you don’t know the God I know.  Maybe before you assume that I have no faith or I’m not praying the right prayers or trusting God enough you might want to know me a little better.  You may want to ask me about my walk with God.  You may want to be quiet for just a minute and listen rather than to “tell” me how things are.  You don’t know me very well do you.  And you don’t know the God I serve very well either.

I have ALS.  Yes, right now I can walk and drive and use my hands.  So, I guess just losing my voice is no big deal.  REALLY?  Try having to repeat yourselves several times a day.  Or being treated like an imbecile on the phone when I can’t be understood.  Or being treated rudely because I sound “stupid”.  And if you knew anything about bulbar ALS, did you know I have trouble eating, swallowing, blowing my nose, clearing mucous from my throat, getting breathless while talking, becoming totally exhausted just trying to communicate with the world around me?  Yeah, I’m only losing my voice.  Try not talking for 10 minutes, an hour, a day.  Then tell me that losing your voice is no big deal.

I have ALS.  Every three months I need to go to a clinic to see how much I may be declining.  Real fun.  Having to face the reality that I will probably lose my ability to verbally communicate.  That my family will forget what I sound like one day.  That enjoying a meal with friends may become a thing of the past.  I may start drooling all over myself and need to be fed by a tube.  Yeah, I’m only losing my voice.

I have ALS.  One day, I won’t be able to breathe.  I will gasp for breath and panic.  I’ve seen the look on my father’s face and that terrifies me.  But that’s my reality.  This disease will result in respiratory failure, unless of course I succumb to pneumonia because I aspirated on food, liquid, or saliva.

I have ALS.  Where is your compassion?

As I write this, I am angry.  I know it.  I am wrestling with it.  But I will forgive.  I know I’m on that path right now because my God is in me.  He is calling me to repentance.  He is the salve to all of my wounds.  It’s only when I run from him that I fall prey to anger.  He is faithful and He does not leave me in my sin for long.  I know He is there, because He convicts me, draws me to repentance and forgiveness and restores unto me the joy of my salvation.

I have ALS.  But I have nothing to fear because the God who created the heavens and the earth is in control of even the minute circumstances of my life.  I try not to question the Almighty.  His ways are not my ways.  He is altogether nothing like me.  I am thankful for those truths because His way is always better than mine.

I have ALS.  It doesn’t have me. 

Isaiah 41:10  Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

 

Legacies & Blessings

I must share a brief story with you about leaving a legacy.  Being faced with a terminal illness can affect people in many different ways.  For me, being diagnosed with ALS, has made me really contemplate my life and how to live the rest of it.  Especially after seeing first hand, from my father, how quickly the disease can devastate.  I’ve been thinking about what kind of a legacy I’ve built so far for my children and grandchildren.  To be honest, I have failed quite miserably.  However, although I cannot go back and change my parenting flaws like I wish I could, I realize that it isn’t too late at all to still leave a lasting impression.

I recently read in a Bible journaling group I belong to on Facebook about Journibles.  A journible is a journal and a Bible in one.  I went to the website and read about it.  After seeing the author explain what a journible was and how it could be used to leave a legacy, I instantly knew I wanted to purchase one.  The way it is designed, is you actually handwrite out specific books of the Bible (they sell them separately)  on the right side of the page and on the left side of the page, you leave notes, insights, definitions, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  The author designed the journible after reading in Deuteronomy 17:18 this edict to the king:   “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical Priests”.  He had an aha moment.  If the King was commanded to copy Scripture, why don’t we?  (see video link below for why to use a journible).  What Rob Wynalda (author) discovered is that students who write out the Scriptures have a higher retention rate.  When one writes out the Word of God, it somehow becomes more indelible on the mind.  In the process of writing the Scriptures, he thought about creating a journal, so that people could write out the Scriptures, including their own study notes, as a special legacy to their children and grandchildren.  This seemed like a win, win to me.  As I study a book of the Bible, I could record my insights, while also leaving a handwritten copy of a book of the Bible for my grandson.

I emailed Rob to ask him what type of pen he used, as I contemplated my purchase.  To my surprise, he answered that he used a ball point pen, but if I learned about a more suitable pen, to let him know.  Well, then the Biblical Counseling Conference was soon upon me at NorthCreek Church in Walnut Creek.  They have a very nice bookstore, so I decided to peruse their selection, hoping to find a Journible.  And I did!  I was so excited!  When I got home, I began looking through my pens to see what type I thought would be waterproof and permanent.  If I am going to spend the hours required to hand write one book of the Bible, I wanted to make sure that it would last.  Then I decided to follow up with Rob and tell him of my recent discovery.  I mentioned to him that I was recently diagnosed with ALS and was excited when I heard about his Journible because it gave me the opportunity to leave a written legacy to my grandson.  In addition, I told him what pen I planned to use.  My email to him began a conversation back and forth about how I am doing with my ALS.  This led to me telling him about my current fundraising activities and goals.  He seemed to be genuinely interested in my journey, which was very nice, especially from a stranger, who must be very busy himself.

Today, I received an email notification that someone had given me a donation to my ALS team.  When I checked, lo and behold, it was from Rob himself!  And it was a very generous donation.  My husband and I were instantly flushed with tears of gratitude for such a blessing from a complete stranger.

In summary, my quest for leaving a blessing to future generations resulted in a very special blessing to me today.  I wanted to share it with my friends and family.  When we share our lives with others, they are blessed and so are we.  God is so very good indeed.

I look forward to starting my Journible.  Maybe you should start one too!

http://www.heritagebooks.org/categories/Journibles/

 

Even If

Sometimes it can be very difficult to articulate how I feel.  Then, BAM!,  a song comes on the radio that says exactly what I feel and need.  I can wholeheartedly identify with the words from this song in this trial I currently find myself in.  But I can most definitely also say, “It is Well With My Soul”…

They say sometimes you win some
Sometime you lose some,
And right now, right now I’m losing bad.

Stood on this stage, night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, right now I just can’t.

It’s easy to sing when there’s nothing to bring me down.
What will they say when I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now……

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.

They say it only takes a little faith to move a mountain.
Well good thing, a little faith is all I have right now.
God when you choose to leave mountains unmoveable,
Give me the strength to be able to sing, it is well with my soul.

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.

I know the sorrow and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if you don’t, my hope is You alone.

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good, all of my days
Jesus I will cling to you, come what may.
I know You’re able, I know you can.
I know You’re able and I know you can,
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand.
But even if You don’t, my hope is You alone.

I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t, my hope is You alone,
My hope is You alone.

It is well….with my soul.
It is well… it is well… with my soul.

I know people seem perplexed that I am not falling apart.  I can’t really explain it either.  Perhaps it’s because I still have high function.  Who knows how I will feel when I can’t speak anymore….or eat….or lift up my grandson.  My prayer is that I will just ease into a new way of living and still be able to say, it is well with my soul.  My Father in heaven is able to do that for me, I know.  I am convinced that as long as He continues to give me breath, I have a specific purpose to serve.  I may never even know what that is.  I used to always be on a quest for my purpose.  Now I am comfortable not knowing, as long as my God does.  When I meet Him, he might tell me.  But then again, maybe in heaven, it just won’t matter anymore because all WILL BE WELL and perfect.  Oh, it’s so hard to imagine…..

So, as you go about your week, remember EVEN IF…..it is well.

Reservation for One, Please

Christians often speak about a longing for heaven.  I must admit, I have always had difficulty thinking about heaven with enough energy to ever conjure up a longing for it.  I just didn’t understand what this longing was all about.  In fact, I avoided the thought of heaven altogether, not because I didn’t want to think about it, but because my pea brained mind could not begin to imagine it.  Plus,  I didn’t want to think about my own death.  I had fear.  I had doubts about whether or not I would even go to heaven.  I loved this world too much and wasn’t ready for heaven.  Some thoughts were:  “Heaven might be boring” and “what am I going to do for eternity?  So many obstacles kept me from really dwelling on the thought of heaven, so I never developed a longing for it.

But over the past year, I have begun to think about heaven an awful lot.  Who wouldn’t?  As I’ve read through the gospels on my first few months off, I began to have less fear.  I began to really think about what it might be like.

Then I heard a something that I cannot even remember where I heard it, but it was in a sermon somewhere.  (I listen to a lot of them from differing pastors).  It was about God reserving my place in heaven from eternity past.  Because He knew before the foundation of the world, that He would save me from my sins, He has RESERVED for me my spot in heaven.  How marvelous is that!  So one day, when I pass directly from this consciousness to another one, I will be able to stand before Him and say “reservation for one, please”.  Now I know it won’t happen exactly like that, I am sure I will be speechless in the presence of such holiness, but you get my point.  I don’t have to worry about whether or not there is room for me in heaven because I have a reservation.  How cool is that?

We will all stand before the Lord one day, with bowed knees,  whether we have accepted His free gift of salvation or not.  The Bible is very clear on this:

Philippians 2:9-11

Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Then, in June my sister Stacey told me about a series of sermons on Heaven by Dr. David Jeremiah.  During the month of June he was speaking daily about heaven.  So I listened.  And my heart was further comforted.  My citizenship is indeed in heaven.  I am only a sojourner here on earth.  I have a purpose and I will not go home to heaven until He has fulfilled that purpose in me.  Until then, I must eagerly wait for that all important reservation.  There’s one for me.  Is there one for you?

Philippians 3:20-21

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

You can get his book on heaven Here:

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/monthly/0617_FYE.aspx?tid=goog_adwords_tp&gclid=EAIaIQobChMImp-UgLSJ1QIVRWF-Ch1QcgMDEAAYASAAEgIObvD_BwE

If you are interested in listening to Dr. David Jeremiah’s sermons on heaven, here is the link:

http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio_archives.aspx