Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Beautiful Exchange--Part Two

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Photo Credit

I fear to write all my experiences because I know my readers are varied in their theological beliefs. But I have also searched Scripture, and with my limited Bible college background, I have found that all my experiences fall into what God has done in his word both in the Old and New Testaments. So certain things I write may not fall into your scope of belief, but I fully believe they fall into everything God is and has been. 

I had no idea when this all started, how much I was going to learn about myself, about the God I love, and about my family and friends. 

The first night I had an attack, my husband took me to the hospital. I had been fighting a stomach bug for a week so the doctor put me on an anti-diarrhea medicine and took my electrolyte levels. I was a little low on potassium, so she gave me a supplement and told me to cut my caffeine for a few days and beef up on potassium-rich foods. I went home relieved and thought that was the end of that. 

Weeks later I found myself in the middle of a church service in another state with only my father-in-law nearby. I could feel my heart start racing, so I tried to get up to the bathroom so I wouldn't make a scene. But I couldn't move. I whispered to my father-in-law that I wasn't feeling well and he started to pray quietly for me. In a few minutes, I had a group of ladies including the host of the church event praying and singing over me. In that moment, I went from hyperventilating to outright sobbing. I couldn't hold back the tears even though I was trying so hard not to make a scene. It felt like my body was completely out of my control...in a good way. I could feel God's love all around me like a thick blanket, soothing and comforting. I could feel the motherly strength of all the women who surrounded and were caring for me, a complete stranger. They spoke encouraging and emboldening words to me in soft tones. They assured me I was not alone, and I could hear the Holy Spirit agreeing with them in my heart. I just kept sobbing. I felt like a dam of emotions I had been holding back for so long had finally been released by God, and there was nothing I could do about it. I had no other choice but to sit there and take it. I felt ambushed by the Lord, taken hostage in a glorious, divine bear-hug that wouldn't let me go. I don't know how much time went by, maybe an hour, until I calmed down and felt myself again. I felt freer than I had in a long time. 

The following night, I was still at my in-laws' home, when I was again awakened in the middle of the night with an attack. Since I couldn't talk or move, my only option was to use the strength I had left to dial their home number and pray they answered. They did and seemed to instinctively know something was wrong without my having to say much. They came downstairs and started praying for me. I was so weak and frustrated that this was happening again, that I curled up on the bed and cried. So my mom-in-law bent over and hugged and rocked me like a little child. That's when, once again, the tears turned from tears of fear to tears of overwhelming love.  In her motherly embrace, I felt God's love as I had the previous evening. I found myself uncontrollably sobbing again, with the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart "You are not alone. You are my precious daughter." In that moment, I understood that my in-laws not only put up with me as their son's wife, but truly loved me as their own daughter. It was a moment of vulnerability and freedom. Even as I soaked her and myself with snot and tears, I felt loved by them, and knew without a doubt that their love was real. 

Bear with me, because a similar scene happened three more times! Each time with someone different. 

1.) With my husband on our bed as we decided whether or not to call an ambulance yet again. I told him I just wanted him to stay with me for a little while because I was scared, and he did and I just sobbed as he held me and spoke to me. It was the first time in a long time I had cried in front of my husband and in that, something released in me. I felt free to be myself in front of him in a way I had never been before. 

2.) In my church service, when the pastor had a word that there were people in the crowd who were sick physically and God wanted to heal them. I raised my hand, and had 3 lovely women my age pray for me. As their words hit my ears, I couldn't stop sobbing again. Their words were about the loneliness I was feeling and that God was taking away that loneliness. I felt something in my abdomen physically release and I felt like I could breathe again. In my spirit, I felt the loneliness leave and give way to more freedom. 

3.) In my living room as I worshiped alone, I had a vision of 2 angels I was trying to talk with, but the mental fog and weakness in my physical body was keeping me from doing that. In my vision, I told them I had to talk to them later because I didn't feel well. So instead of leaving, they embraced me and began praying for me. I found myself in my vision sobbing on the floor while the female angel held me like a child and the other wrapped his arms around us both. I was also crying physically. I was so beautifully overwhelmed by their kindness and love, and couldn't believe God would love me so much to send angels to pray for me! 

In every sob session, I was overcome with a different facet of God's love. In each one, I could hear the Holy Spirit clearly telling me how precious and loved I was and for the first time I believed it. He was taking me on a journey and there was still a lot more to learn!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Beautiful Exchange--Part One

The following post is not about marriage, but about recent events in my life that have changed my marriage in a lot of ways. The entire story is too long and detailed to finish in one post, so below is only the first part.

I woke out of a dead sleep to my heart pounding out of my chest, my lungs feeling like they just couldn't get enough oxygen into them. I felt like the air was too thick to breathe, like I needed to get out of the room, of the house. I felt like my pajamas were too tight and were restricting me. I felt like I was going to pass out, and throw up, and die all at the same time. I felt like a drowning person, thrashing for air, for something to hold onto, for anything that would pull me out of this. When I tried to stand up, my legs would give way. I tried to reach for some water and my arms were too heavy to move. I tried to call out for help to my sleeping husband and could barely let out a whisper. For two solid weeks, my husband took off work to take care of me because I couldn't even get out of bed. 

It went on like this almost every night for six months. Some nights were better than others, but every night I was scared of falling asleep. I was scared of driving. Of stepping outside my house for more than just a few minutes. I was scared of playing music too loudly or walking down to the basement to do laundry. I was scared of being left alone or getting too hungry or getting too hot. I was scared of eating the wrong thing or too much of something. I was scared of taking a bath for fear I would have an attack and drown. I was scared all the time.

The doctors said there was nothing physically wrong with me. My vitals were perfect and as far as tests went I was the healthiest person they knew. 

Others said it was just too much stress in my life. I was labeled as having panic attacks and told to just calm down. 

I changed my diet. I removed all social events from my calendar. I listened to soft music and soaked my feet a lot and didn't even play with my child very much, to try to keep stress at a minimum. But nothing was working. I was still having attacks every time i got in the car. I couldn't stay out of the house for more than an hour. I couldn't run out and do more than one small errand at a time. I wasn't sleeping well. I wasn't eating well. And I wasn't spending time with anyone. 

I was miserable and I was making my husband and child miserable. And the worst part is that I felt I was alone in my suffering. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Apples of Gold

(I apologize for the formatting issues in this post. The Blogger website seemed to not want to cooperate this morning.)

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word appropriately spoken.
Proverbs 25:11

My husband and I had just settled in bed and turned off the lights. I could tell something was bothering him and it made me uneasy. As I usually do, I mentally went back through the events of my day and realized that I had let out a stream of angry words towards him that morning. In my defense I had just started my period that day, and I had a list of yard chores I wanted to get done, and I wasn't getting any help with them. I thought I was vindicated in letting my husband know just how frustrated I was. So I did. And the words had obviously cut deeper than I had planned or known. 

As I lay there, it took me a few minutes to build up the humility to say "I'm sorry for getting angry." What followed was my husband sharing his heart with me. Turns out my sweet husband had been mulling over my harsh words all day. Turns out he had been discouraged about many things over the past few weeks and my words were the last nail on the coffin. Turns out I hurt him without even realizing it. 

But on the other side of things...

My dad called me last week. The last time I had spoken to him was a month prior and he had shared with me some grim news. He had been diagnosed with a form of cancer I can't remember the name of and was undergoing chemo. I could hear the hopelessness in his voice. I tried to keep the conversation upbeat by asking him what big plans he had for his birthday coming up. He answered that he didn't think he was going to make it to see his birthday, so he was getting his finances in order. He said God was punishing him for his past sins and that there was nothing he could do. 

As the daughter of my earthly dad who had survived many things, and the daughter of my heavenly dad whom I knew to be both powerful and good, I had to say something. I got mad...in a good way. I told my daddy just what I thought of his silly belief! He had turned his life over to Jesus years ago, and from that moment he had been cleaned of all the crap in his past. I reminded him that all God's anger had been put on Jesus long before my dad came along. God is not angry anymore. He's not waiting to punish us. And even more, Jesus healed every person who asked him, so why wouldn't he now heal my dad? I was so angry that my dad could think such things about the God we both loved and just give up on life. 

So when my dad called me last week, I was taken completely by surprise by the joy in his voice! He said he had gone back for his normal chemo treatment and there was no sign of the cancer...it was gone! The oncologist called it "unbelievable." It didn't stop there. He had an appointment with his cardiologist that same week...and there was no sign of the blockage that had been there before! Turns out my dad had taken my words and turned them over and over in his heart for weeks. Turns out he shared with relatives and hospital staff "the wisdom my daughter said to me." Turns out one of his nurses gave her life to Jesus because of his story and my words. Turns out the words I didn't even think had gotten through to him had not only gotten to him, they had worked encouragement and life in him! I stood on the other side of the phone completely speechless! And the Lord reminded me of His words:

                             "The tongue has power over life and death"
                                                  Proverbs 18:21

Sweet friends, we have absolutely no idea just how powerful our words are! They can quite literally destroy or restore life. Is there someone today that needs to hear a word of encouragement from you? Is there someone that needs to hear you say "I'm sorry for saying things that hurt you. Please forgive me?" It is so scary to do, but it's so worth it. Jesus, give us grace to speak life and to repair the damage done by our angry words. 

Above are some of the sweet words that have been spoken...er, written to me over the past few weeks :) Not sure what I love more, sending or receiving cards and letters!