Archives for category: Journey to Health

This week I have been posting on what it means that Jesus is our Healer. I talked about why we get sick, why we sometimes are — or are not — healed by God in a miraculous way. But sometimes sickness comes for reasons we can’t understand, and sometimes we are not healed, even when we do everything “right.” Because sometimes sickness has something to do with how God is going to be glorified in our lives, or God’s priorities for our lives. And when we live on the finite plane of existence, while God is on the infinite, there are often things He sees that we do not see, or things for which we can’t understand the significance in our little corner of time and space.

Paul, the great apostle who wrote much of the New Testament and participated in many people receiving divine healing from God, this same man experienced something in his life which he metaphorically called a “thorn in the flesh.” He tells of it in 2 Corinthians 12

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

What was it? What was that thorn? It is kept intentionally vague in the Bible, I believe, so that we can all relate to it better. There are as many theories about what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was as there are people who have unique challenges. We do have a few clues:

  • He writes to the Galatians and mentions an illness which in some way had the power to be revolting because he praises their kind reception of him even though he was sick (Galatians 4). Is this the same thing he refers to as a “thorn”? We don’t know.
  • He didn’t write his many letters by himself ― In some of the letters he mentions “see with what large letters I write” (Gal 6:11) or in several places he adds “I write this with my own hand” at the end of a letter, to authenticate it really was from him. Was Paul going blind? Did he also have rheumatoid arthritis and his hands didn’t work very well anymore? We don’t know.
  • Luke the physician traveled with him in later life. Luke himself mentions this, and also Paul mentions it in his letters. Did Paul travel with a physician because Luke was now helping him spread the gospel — or because he needed frequent medical care? We don’t know.

One thing we do know, though, is that sometimes our physical healing is not the greatest priority God has for our lives. Sometimes inexplicably, God will take someone and it just seems like “IT WAS TOO SOON.” And for reasons that we may honestly NEVER understand.

God has created us for eternity, but in the finiteness of our little minds and how bound we are by time and space, it’s easy to forget that this world and this life is not the end goal or the greatest glory.

In the church I attended in college, there was a widow whose husband had once been the pastor there. Sometimes people would ask Pastor Lilian, “Are you mad at God for taking your husband away so soon? He was such a good man who served God so faithfully.” Lilian shared with me that she would tell people that she was not mad at God, and though she may not know the reasons he died young, she did know this: “God doesn’t owe me anything.” Jesus has already paid the price for our eternal life! He doesn’t OWE US anything: not an explanation, not a husband, not a healing. She would say, I enjoyed my life with my husband and I am thankful. I continue to bless God and live for God now, while I still have life.

Pastor Lilian knew that healing in this life isn’t the real goal.

Eternity is the real goal. And she knew her husband had eternity with Jesus. That was enough. That IS enough. If we will embrace that possibility that Jesus with me is enough for THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT, then any blessings in this life are not what we are owed, they are bonuses.

But sometimes God has another priority first. I have so many stories I could share, but I bet you already know these stories, too. Stories of people who found something beautiful out of a pain they would never have chosen, yet they see how God is at work through it. Stories like my friend whose car wreck gave her lots of chances to share Jesus’ love with people… like the one in the wheelchair who knows if it wasn’t for that accident, he probably wouldn’t be walking with Jesus right now… like the girl who lived her first ten or so years with scoliosis, and then was instantly healed at summer camp before a few hundred kids who will forever remember that miracle.

Our Foursquare movement was founded by a woman who some would say had more boldness and faith than wisdom. When it was time to build a church, they only had enough money to dig the foundation. She said, “Dig a hole, God will fill it.” And God did. And when it came to healing, she knew that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). If He could heal then, He can heal now. And she had an amazing healing ministry.

Why am I ill? I like to think it’s because God is going to get some glory out of this thing.

Is he going to heal me? Or is this my thorn in the flesh? I don’t know. But I am going to ask. Paul prayed “three times” and God said “my grace is sufficient, and my strength is made perfect in your weakness.” Basically, God said, “this is something you are going to have to live with so stop asking.”

I want to keep on asking until God tells me to stop asking.

But in the meantime, I’m not going to get mad at God for my body’s failings. And I am not going to let fear of what it could mean interfere with what I feel God is calling me to do. 

On the one hand it can seem like “God designing people to be disabled or chronically ill is just mean.”

On the other hand, Who am I to say that differently-abled means defective? We ALL have some way in which we are differently abled than everyone else. I’m short – my husband is tall. Good for me on airplanes, good for him on reaching high shelves. We all have things we don’t like about our bodies.

I was part of a playgroup in California. There were kids there who were so smart and everything you’d think a kid ought to be. And there was a little girl in the group who had Down Syndrome. Kid #1 will maybe get a college scholarship and wind up making lots of money but he might also be the biggest arrogant, entitled jerk you ever saw. The girl with Down Syndrome was the sweetest, most loving, light of your life and make your day child  ― full of faith in Jesus and bringing his encouragement ― that you could ever meet. Both kids have equal potential to shine the light of Christ and make the world a better place.

I don’t care if you live in a wheelchair, have rheumatoid arthritis, a learning disorder, are blind, or live with an injury …

There is NOTHING THAT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM AN AMAZING LIFE but your own attitude. Sometimes it is the attitude that really needs to be healed.

God has given us so many tools at our disposal for our healing.

Even in Leviticus we see things God told Israel to do, which we would call nutritional therapies or germ management or naturopathic remedies. God has given us therapies and healing foods and herbs and essential oils and things we can do to promote our own healing.

God has also given people incredible wisdom to create medicines and do surgeries and things to bring about healing. Often, these are things God uses for our healing.

But we often forget that there is a third option, which is divine healing.

There is a balance, I think we need to find, between “All I can do is pray” – when often that is NOT all YOU can do. And on the other end of the spectrum, we might say, “I guess I’ll just have to take medication forever… or die…” when there IS the possibility that GOD will show up miraculously.

I think that God likes to show up miraculously when we are ready to say, “this is way beyond me” and we are willing to stand up and say “I need a move of your Holy Spirit.”

Ultimately, the goal in this life is to be able to sing “It is well with my soul” no matter what kind of problems we face. No matter what kind of healing we are seeking– until it comes– God wants us to learn how to sing “It is Well With My Soul.”

But don’t forget that there are a lot of other songs we can sing, about God bringing healing, and doing miracles.

I need healing. How long do I want to do experimental treatments with my doctor and experiment with whatever lifestyle changes I can make…??? I mean, I want healing NOW! I want to be healed NOW. Can God do it? YES, ABSOLUTELY HE CAN!! Will God do it it now for me? The only way I can will know the answer to that is if I ask, and I keep on asking until he either says, “No, my grace is sufficient” or he says YES and I am healed. So I am ASKING!

Here’s a song to help you in your asking.

When we look at the New Testament and why people ARE healed divinely, it is really quite interesting to see the diversity of experiences people have of Jesus’ healing. The common thread is that Jesus heals in response to faith, and in response to our asking.

The Gospel of Mark is a really wonderful place to read to see some of the variety of experiences people had with Jesus with physical healing.

Sometimes he heals a person in response to someone else’s faith, like the parents who asked for healing for their child (Mark 5), or the four friends who lowered the paralytic through the roof so they could get close enough to Jesus (Mark 2).

Sometimes he heals in response to obedience like the one who first he forgives the man’s sin (sometimes it seems we really do need healing because of our own sin) – in Mark 2:5 – then he heals him.

Sometimes Jesus heals simply because of his own compassion:

  Luke 7:11 Soon afterward Jesus went with his disciples to the village of Nain, and a large crowd followed him. 12 A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the village gate. The young man who had died was a widow’s only son, and a large crowd from the village was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart overflowed with compassion. “Don’t cry!” he said. 14 Then he walked over to the coffin and touched it, and the bearers stopped. “Young man,” he said, “I tell you, get up.” 15 Then the dead boy sat up and began to talk! And Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Sometimes we need to be PERSISTENT in prayer. There are several times in the gospels where it says people had to ask repeatedly (Mark 5:23, Mark 7:25-29). We sometimes give up too soon.

Sometimes Jesus would heal just to prove a point – I mean, wouldn’t you love to be healed just to prove a point in a sermon? Wouldn’t that be great to see on Sundays? In Mark 3:3 this happened.

It does seem to be the case, that when God wants to establish that HIS KINGDOM is come, like when Jesus walked on earth, or when the early church was being established, or other strong moves of his Holy Spirit around the world in modern day, that there often seems to be a strong move of God’s healing power.

When we AREN’T divinely healed – WHY?

Stay with me here, because this part is where you could get offended if you don’t read all the way through. And remember, I am still awaiting my healing… so if you’ve been praying for healing, and it hasn’t happened, please know that sometimes not receiving healing has NOTHING to do with anything that we are or are not doing. Okay? But sometimes it does. And I want to look at that part first.

Sometimes it is as simple as looking back at those lists – we aren’t healed because we aren’t asking! We aren’t healed because we don’t have faith, we don’t even consider it as one of the possible remedies to our problems. We aren’t expecting it. We lack persistence in prayer.

Sometimes it is because we are not being obedient ― There are times God asked people to participate in their own healing by doing some sort of act of obedience, like in John 9 where the blind man was sent to wash in a certain pool.  There are also times when we face affliction because we are not doing what God has asked us to do. The founder of the Foursquare movement, Aimee Semple McPherson, is an example of this: when she came back from China and was remarried and now a mother of two, she was gravely ill on her deathbed. God had a call on her life, and she was not following through. Imagine with me: young woman, two kids, called to preach, and her husband wasn’t fully keen on the idea. But she knew what God was asking of her. And her body was literally wasting away because she was resisting the call of the Holy Spirit on her life. Sick in bed, she finally called out – God if you are calling me, and you will heal me, I will go. So God healed her, and she went! Deathbed bargaining with God isn’t always the best plan, but I guess it worked in this case. She even went on to have an amazing healing ministry herself.

Aimee Healing

As I said, I am in the middle of my healing journey – I’m not calling it my illness journey, I am calling it my healing journey – and I am asking myself all those things. God, is there sin in my life? Am I lacking trust in you and allowing stress to ravage my life? Am I allowing pride to get in the way of your healing?

Healing usually doesn’t happen in the dark. Sometimes Jesus would say “don’t tell!” but usually people couldn’t help but spread the word and publicly praise God for healing! In other time, he called people out. Like in the story of woman bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5) who touched Jesus’ robe, and Jesus was like, “Oh I am happy to heal but let’s give the Father the glory for this y’all! Who touched me? Who was healed?”

If we are going to ask for healing we ought to at least be willing to give God the glory! If shame is keeping you in the dark and you are praying for God to heal you, but you aren’t willing to tell anyone about what it is you need healed, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that you will not be healed without bringing whatever it is to the light. And that goes for more than just physical healing – all that I am saying is true for emotional healing, healing of marriages or other broken relationships, healing of addictions or bad habits or thought patterns or mental illness. If there is any area of your life that needs healing – or really, we all need it so I should say WHATEVER your need of healing is, not IF you need healing – whatever it is, BRING IT TO THE LIGHT. It doesn’t have to be a crowd. Where two or more are gathered, God is there!

Sometimes God wants us to participate in our healing, and when we are not willing to be full participants in the story God has designed for our lives, sometimes that is why we lack the fullness of his blessing in our lives, which can include physical healing.

But sometimes none of this has anything to do with it… sometimes God is just writing a different story for our lives. ALL of God’s stories are good stories, but they definitely do not all have the same ending, and sometimes the “happy” ending is the one that comes when we transfer to eternity, and sometimes the triumph is not at all what you would expect it to be. So check in tomorrow and I’ll talk about that!

Yesterday I mentioned a sermon I preached last Sunday at church about how Jesus is our Healer. This week, I am posting some of those thoughts here. I started with why we get sick in the first place. Today I want to share a little of my own context for processing all these thoughts.

This issue of the NEED FOR HEALING is something that I am personally experiencing and walking through with Jesus right now. In retrospect I can see that my physical symptoms began about a year and a half ago, but at the time, it was nothing that I wouldn’t attribute to just normal fatigue or aging. Just over a year ago I started experiencing some symptoms that were rather odd, and since it had been almost five years since I’d seen a doctor, I decided maybe I just ought to get checked out. Those early odd symptoms (I call it being “allergic to cold” … the actual name is Raynaud’s Disease) are something for which I am now very grateful, because they led to a much quicker diagnosis than I think I would have received otherwise. You see, in the process of doing bloodwork, etc. for that issue, a lot of other things I’d been experiencing in mild form got a lot worse.  I could no longer attribute fatigue to lack of sleep, because I was sleeping more than ever. I battled depression. I started getting fevers for no discernible reason. My joints began to hurt at random, with no tie to any injury or over-exertion. I began to stay up later, even though I knew I’d be tired the next day, and after a few weeks of that I was talking to God about it and realized I was afraid to go to bed… because I never knew what I would feel like in the morning, or what might hurt. The tendons in my hands felt like they were burning if I tried to fully extend my fingers, and I literally couldn’t make a fist. In the worst days, my wrists were so tender that picking up anything heavier than my cell phone was just painful, and I chose what to wear based on how much it might or might not hurt to put it on and take it off.

And I didn’t know why. I would pray, “God, you have to hold me together” because some days I felt like my skin was the only thing keeping my hands attached to my arms.

The diagnosis came at the end of September.

Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I decided to go with the medicine my doctor recommended and also look into alternative therapies, such as changes in diet, certain herbs and essential oils, and exercises. So far, I am vastly improved, and now mostly I just deal with a fairly constant achiness instead of debilitating pain. And the cold allergy is still there.

I don’t say all this to elicit sympathy. I do appreciate the prayers and encouragement of those who know a little of what I’ve experienced, but I really don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. I have always hated appearing weak, and I don’t want to burden anyone else with my problems.

The truth is, I was struggling with my own fears of what an incurable, chronic autoimmune disorder would do for my own future and my dreams. One of my college roommates and dear friends dealt with juvenile-onset rheumatoid arthritis, and knowing what she went through was quite a shadow on my own hopes for the future. She is an amazing, strong, talented woman and a beautiful soul — really, I do want to be like her! But I wasn’t excited about sharing this particular trait with her.

But in not sharing my struggles I was giving Satan power in a number of ways. 

First, I was isolating myself by not letting anyone see the internal struggle. I was cutting off a powerful source of goodness in my life, which is the power of connection. You see, God’s power thrives in our lives when we connect with God and others. Satan’s power thrives in disconnection. When we are internally disconnected because we don’t internally process or admit to ourselves the emotions we experience. When we are disconnected from others by not sharing what’s really going on. When we are disconnected from God because we don’t know how He fits in this new paradigm.

Second, by allowing the fear to stay inside, I gave it a power in my life that fear NEVER has when it comes into the light. Simply by saying, “I am afraid” – the fear loses at least half of the power it has on my thoughts and emotions. Try it, you will see it is true!

Third, by not sharing my need for healing, I was depriving God of an opportunity for him to get glory in both my healing and in my testimony of how I might walk through this struggle WITH HIM instead of BLAMING HIM.

Fourth, by pretending that everything was fine I was allowing my pride to lead me in living a lie. The truth is, my body is just as weak as anyone else’s. To humble myself and admit my weakness and my need for God gets me back into that stream of God’s power, the place where my honesty and humanity connect me to you as we share in our unique challenges of the human experience. And the place where God’s grace is evident to me, as I allow him to love me and be with me through the difficult times.

I wonder … are there ways that you are isolating yourself in your own challenges? Who might God be calling you to connect with instead? Do you need to take some time to process some emotions you’ve been blocking, so that you can receive some healing in your emotions or spirit? God already knows what is going on in your life… bring it to the light with Him — be honest! Let Him walk through it with you. Find the connections you need — they lead to the peace that you also need. (Ephesians 4:3)

unity peace Eph 4.3

Our church is doing a series for the month of February on what it means that we are a Foursquare church. We are a Christian church, and more specifically part of the family of churches known collectively as the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.  Not an independent church, but a church that is part of something much bigger, and with a unique family style and emphasis. We celebrate Jesus as our Savior, Healer, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit and Soon Coming King. Last week our senior pastor spoke on the first of these four doctrinal distinctives – Jesus our Savior. Yesterday, I was privileged to speak about what it means that Christ is our Healer. I thought I’d just share some of these thoughts in a few blog posts this week, as this is a subject that I am personally thinking a lot about, as I am on my own healing journey, as I have shared a little bit in the past. Honestly, now that I have been on this little trip for a bit longer, I think my thoughts from last October were rather naive and overly optimistic. As I have learned more about my condition, well, I found it’s very complicated, and while I am still looking to see what I can do to partner with God in my healing, this is definitely something that is beyond me to solve or change. More on that later!

Anyway, I want to share some of my thoughts on what it means that Christ is our healer, and though I will refer more specifically to physical healing, all that I am saying is true for emotional healing, healing of marriages or other broken relationships, healing of addictions or bad habits or thought patterns or mental illness. Jesus can heal us in all areas!

There are two basic facts we can learn from the Bible and from life, when it comes to healing.

  1. God can heal ANYTHING 
  2. God doesn’t always heal

Before we talk about healing specifically, I think it’s worth touching on this topic of why we get sick in the first place.

We live in a fallen world. Viruses… old age… cancer… these are things that attack us all indiscriminately… you can eat lots of kale and exercise every day and meditate and drink water and all those things they say to do, and you can still be attacked by these kinds of plagues.

Sin. Oh that ugly little word that can be so hard to talk about. But it really has a lot to do with how much freedom we live in, physical or otherwise. Sometimes this can be something that isn’t a sin like adultery or stealing, but something like stress. Stress can have an effect on health, and while we usually can’t control those things that bring on stress, ultimately anxiety reveals an area in which we are not fully trusting God. When we look at the ultimate core definition of sin being a disconnection from God or a missing of the mark He has set out for us, it becomes clear how stress is an indication of disconnection. This is often the biggest way that most of us miss the mark — by the ways we fail to go to God when we find ourselves in distress or caught in anxiety ― and when, instead of deepening our trust in God, we internalize that stress or begin coping by overeating or other unhealthy behaviors or addictions — it can have a literally massive effect on our health. I am just as guilty of this as anyone else!

Sin leading to illness can also be things like lifestyle choices that open us up to greater risk of illness — like STDs, how smoking can lead to certain cancers, alcoholism can lead to organ failure … there are all kinds of ways we do not treat our bodies like the temple of the Holy Spirit  like 1 Corinthians 6:19 encourages us to do.

I think I would also mention here that we sometimes end up paying for other people’s sins, like when someone is a victim of abuse, or drunk driving, or other types of violence.

I only mention these, because when we find ourselves in need of healing, I think it is worth it to just come humbly to God and ask, “Is there something I am doing that is causing this illness?” Sometimes God will show us things in our lives that he wants to help us change ― sometimes an internal, emotional or spiritual healing is needed before we will be able to experience physical healing.

But sometimes God will say no – this has nothing to do with what you have done, because there are two other key reasons we sometimes face illness (besides the Fallen World thing, where we also have no control).

For God’s Glory – John 9 tells us this:

1 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”  “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him… Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

Honestly, I can’t say that I fully understand what exactly Jesus meant by “this happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” Was Jesus just alluding to the fallen world, and saying personal sin has nothing to do with it, but we can take this as an opportunity to see God’s power?

Or is Jesus more directly saying, “God designed this man to be blind because he knew that blindness was going to give the man a life that we would still be talking about two thousand years later.” Really, the more I think of it, the less bad that sounds. I mean, how many people are remembered two thousand years later? Not many! This guy — I am sure being blind wasn’t so fun. Maybe he was cool with it. It doesn’t seem like he actually asked to be healed, even. But I bet he had fun telling that story for the rest of his life!

And that brings me around to the final point of why we get sick:

Because sometimes God has a priority beyond our physical health … and illness provides an opportunity for us.

I could share so many stories about this. While we would never wish a bad thing – an injury or an illness – on anyone, I know so many people who have lived with a disability from birth or who have dealt with a chronic illness or with an injury that developed later in life, and they say the way God met them in that struggle was something that shaped and improved their life in such a way that they would never trade the pain for the sweetness of God’s presence they experienced through it.

What do you think? Have you spent much time thinking about why we have sickness in this world, or what God thinks about it, or if he will still heal people, or if those stories in the Bible are even true? I’ll keep posting through the week, but I’d love to hear your thoughts!

thanks for goodness

I have been reading all the psalms – and many other places in Scripture – that focus on thankfulness and thanksgiving. I had these great intentions to do something every day to express my own thankfulness, or at least maybe to once a week post something online, or write a thank-you note or two. Like many of my other good intentions and great ideas, this one fell sadly short. Though I feel I have an attitude of thanksgiving, it is somehow difficult to go from attitude to the effort of following through with an expression of such!

In fact, about ten days ago I did start writing a blog with a list of some of the things I am thankful for, but it was so depressing, that I simply had to stop writing and definitely could not post it! You see, sometimes we forget how much we have to be thankful for until we lose it, or until we gain it back after having lost it for awhile. To explain WHY I am so thankful for things I have experienced (though I realize I may never again), or things that I can do (though there are days I cannot), I wrote a bit too much about my recent health challenges, and it was a bit too much to continue to dwell upon. It is odd how I can feel truly very thankful and also sad at the same time. I suppose it should not be odd, because much of the human experience involves an ebb and flow of the good times and the difficult. Without the difficult, it is hard to appreciate the divine — but we often don’t realize how good we have it until we do not, or we realize how many others do not.

A few days later I discovered a much better form of expression, and I finally am happy to post my very own Thanksgiving Psalm. I have noticed a pattern in some of the Psalms (116 is a good example) of this kind of pattern: Introduction (expression of God’s goodness); Situation (it’s bad); Response (I will praise anyway); Summary/Conclusion (Praise the Lord!). Here is my own attempt, in more or less that format.

The LORD is good! Forever and Ever He will be praised
From my lips and from my heart I offer up thanksgiving.
Though I cannot order my days as I might choose,
and my church building floods and is in upheaval,
though my body may fail me time and again,
and I seem to need more wisdom than I find,
Yet I will praise!
Yet I will thank You for Your goodness,
which does not change though my circumstances at times seem dreary.
I will rejoice in the beauty of fall colors
and thank You for both sunshine and rain.
I thank You for the orange persimmons in my yard,
which brighten up my day as I look out the window,
or pass through my own neighborhood and come again home.
I thank You for the red apples harvested from my tree,
ready to share their sweetness.
I thank You for my health:
for Your presence in my pain
and Your promise of eternal release.
For my heart knows very well that to walk with You in pain
Is better than to walk without You in sunshine.
I thank the God of my salvation!
I lift my voice in thanksgiving.
Great is the LORD!

When faced with the option to change or die, 90% of people will choose DIE.

WHAT THE HECK?

Why, if someone knew there was another option, would anyone ever choose death?

Because change is hard.

Case in point: today I am drinking coffee with milk.

coffeeThis seems like a rather inconsequential admission, unless you know my backstory. Coffee? Good. Milk? Good. No sugar, no syrup, good. So why is this an illustration of the difficulty of change?

Because I was recently diagnosed — or at least there is a somewhat inconclusive but likely diagnosis — of rheumatoid arthritis. This is an autoimmune disease, one of many. As I have recently learned, autoimmune illnesses are notoriously difficult to pin down. The same disease can manifest differently in different people, and many of the symptoms of one disorder are also present in other disorders. In fact, it is not uncommon for people who have one autoimmune disorder to have several. So it may not be rheumatoid arthritis, or it may be in its early stages – hence the inconclusive test results – and it may also (or instead) be lupus or connective tissue disease, and my initial symptoms were those of Reynaud’s phenomenon, which is a sometimes stand-alone and sometimes accessory disease to one of the other autoimmune disorders.

I am still wrapping my head around all this information, and I doubt most people care to read my list of symptoms, but suffice it to say, 10 months ago this is certainly not what I thought would be a major focus of my life at present.

I have been fortunate in my life to have been able to live in a way that I would call fairly low-maintenance where my body is concerned. Through a mix of genetics, enjoyment of exercise, and generally healthy diet, I have never had a major struggle with my weight and I have never had a long-term illness. Because I like to be low-maintenance, most days I don’t wear makeup, I don’t dye my hair, and I’m more likely to style a ponytail than anything that requires the heat of a hair dryer, curler or flat iron. I like to just get up and go. Well, actually, I hate to get out of bed at all in the morning, so if I have to do it, I choose an extra 20 minutes of sleep over 20 minutes in front of the mirror.

So when it became difficult to get out of bed in the morning because I was in pain rather than I was just sleepy… well… at some point I had to ask myself if there was more going on than the nearness of middle-age.

Once the months of testing came up with a likely “here’s why” I then had a choice: a lifetime of pain that will only get worse… or… CHANGE. I decided I wanted to be in the ten percent who chooses to change rather than the ninety percent who choose to die.

For me, the change does involve some medication, and though most medical professionals would say autoimmune disorders have no cure and joint damage is irreversible, I again want to go with the smaller group who says that lifestyle and diet changes can make a difference, and I want to hold onto the hope that there is a possibility I won’t have to be on medication for the rest of my life.

Among the many changes I am attempting: eliminating most non-cultured cow’s milk dairy.  But today, I was tired of having alternative milk in my coffee. Small thing, but it represents how hard change can be.

The full quote I referenced above is this:

“Even if we agree that we are in an adapt-or-die (even adventure-or-die) moment, the urgency of the situation is not enough. When given that particular choice, 90 percent choose dying. In a study of those who were faced with exactly that choice—stop drinking or you will die, stop smoking or you will die, change your diet now or you will die, the vast majority choose to risk death. In a world where we have the technology to do heart valve bypasses and even complete heart transplants, we continually fail at getting people to change the behavior that makes these procedures necessary.”

 – Tod Bolsinger, Canoeing the Mountains, referencing the study of Alan Deutschman’s 2009 book Change or Die.

Change is hard. And often the need for change goes unnoticed until we are at some kind of breaking point. For me, I think many of my triggers for developing these several disorders were years of unacknowledged stress, chronically not getting enough sleep, too little self-care, and too much sugar and refined and processed foods in my diet. In short, probably the plagues of many stay at home moms. Of course physical illnesses often have much to do with things we cannot control, but they also often are made worse by not being more healthy in those things we can control.

I never write about my own struggles in order to receive others’ pity or attention. In fact, the possibility of hearing a hundred “Oh I am so sorry for all these difficulties you poor thing” is why I have not written about these things earlier. The reason I write, is because I know I am not alone in my challenges, and I hope that you also know you are not alone in yours.

Maybe I am not strictly facing a lie-threatening situation. I am facing a life-altering situation, but sometimes the change-or-die moment is not quite that literal and immediate. My change-or-die situation is more about the question of “How do I want to live the rest of my life?” Do I want to live it to the full? Or do I want to let certain hopes and dreams die, because I see my situation as bleak and unchangeable?

Though I do need to adjust some things in my life, and perhaps alter my expectations of what is possible for me at present (for example, though I love running, it isn’t my best exercise option right now, and getting less than 8+ hours of sleep is a really bad idea), there are other things that I DON’T NEED TO ALTER. For example — my view of God. God is still good. He is still a healer, and He still has good plans for my life. I still have a hope and a calling. God’s goodness and good-will towards me are unchangeable, even in my changing situations. Thankfulness is still a sure path to joy, and there are surely still many things for which to be thankful. And the quicker road to hope and healing is the one that has a lot of people on it — not the solitary road.

So, I offer an invitation to you today. Are you at a change or die point in your life? Maybe a relationship is on the verge of death, and you’d like to save it, but you don’t know what you can change. Maybe you do know what needs to change, but you don’t know how, or you don’t think you have the strength to change. Maybe like me, you are facing a diet and lifestyle kind of change-or-die, but you think it’s going to be too hard to change. Maybe you aren’t yet at a crisis point, but you know if you keep going the way you’ve been going, your path is going to hit a dead end. Can we pray for each other? Can we reach out to God and others and see if there is an alternative to death?

Now that I have had my coffee with milk, after not having it with milk for awhile, I realize it’s really not that different. Sometimes the hardest part of change is that first step, that decision. I stopped putting sugar in my coffee awhile ago, and decided I liked it just fine without. In fact, I can’t hardly stand those fake corn-syrupy flavored creamers anymore. Going back to the former things that we think we miss aren’t often as great as we think we remember them to be. But we will never find out if we don’t take that first step. Now that I’ve had a break from my former “norm” and tried it out again, I think I’ll be okay to go without in the future. I know when we face true addiction it doesn’t work that way – one drink can send an alcoholic in a downward spiral quicker than a kid on a water slide. But I also know that the longer we stay on a healthier path, the less we miss the old, and the easier it is to see a habit for what it really is. In my case, it is simply unnecessary. Goodbye old habit. Hello life.