Why I’m a Christian and I Believe that Love Wins

In the past few weeks, our news channels and social media feeds have been consistently bombarded with unimaginable and terrible news. These reports vary in intensity and devastation. First, we heard of the young boy who fell into the gorilla exhibit which resulted in the shooting of the animal in order to save the boy. Then, there was recently a 22 year old singer, who was openly Christian, gunned down by a crazed fan during an innocent time of autographs and pictures following her show. The next day, a man entered a gay nightclub and shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 innocent people. He then proceeded to claim to have ties to ISIS which turned that into the largest mass shooting and the second largest terrorist attack on American soil. A few days later, a disgruntled Walmart employee in Texas decided that taking his boss and another employee hostage over a disagreement about his promotion was a wise choice. The latest tragedy brought to the public’s knowledge was the 2 year old boy grabbed and drowned by an alligator while he and his family vacationed at Disney World. All of this tragic news surfaced amidst the already unsettling daily news of crime, corruption and deceit. It becomes a noisy intrusion on your attempt for peace and joy in life.

As I write this article, I am in no way minimizing the gravity of the situations that have arose; however, as if the news itself wasn’t horrible enough, we are consistently bombarded by opinions from people who fail to think before they speak- people who were in no way apart of the situations. It’s extremely easy for someone sitting in the peace and safety of their own home, behind a computer screen, to profess to know exactly what happened and how they would react in each situation. The truth is, I don’t know how I would react in a volatile circumstance such as an active shooter situation. I’m not a mom, yet, so I don’t know how easy it is to turn your back for 5 seconds only to find that your child is in the grasp of a deadly animal. I do, however have sympathy for the people involved in these situations.

Unfortunately, there are Christians who speak lies and words of criticism that are so far from Christ-like and in turn they are skewing the reality of what Christ’s love truly is. The phrase “Love Wins” has become ever-so popular by the gay community in an effort to gain acceptance for gay marriages. As a Christian, I too believe that “Love Wins”- just in a different context than its initial intention. I believe that as Christians, we are to love in order to win others for Christ. Spewing hate only creates a lack of respect and integrity for all who call themselves Christians. I do not agree with the gay lifestyle, however, if I claim to be a Christian (which is in fact a “little Christ”), then I need to learn from how HE responded.

Romans 5:8 But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

Let’s take a look at the story told in the book of Luke about the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan; and in the Bible times, the Samaritans were the worst of the worst, yet Jesus went out of His way to show love and to minister to the Samaritan woman! Just like you and I, she was a sinner. She had multiple husbands and lived a life that was driven by her fleshly desires. If He could extend that love and mercy to a woman with a past like hers, why is it so difficult for us to love others with as much compassion and mercy as Christ? We are ALL sinners, we just sin in different ways. Why do we possess a mentality of such entitlement that we imagine that somehow we are better because we are in straight marriages? Or how can we believe for a moment that we deserve God’s love any more than the ones who are in a gay marriage? It’s time Christians start acting like Christ and adopting the “Love Wins” mentality!

To the moms who suffered criticism and hatred because for a split second you let your child out of your sight and a tragedy ensued- I’m sorry. I’m sorry that your tragedy happened in the spot light and that there are a plethora of nasty accusations aimed your way. Like I said earlier, I am not a mother so I have not experienced how fast they can escape your view. No one else was in your position at that moment. No one else has any right to criticize you or your parenting abilities. The only thing you deserve is our prayers and kindness.

To the people who are being blamed for not thwarting a senseless attack on many, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that from the comfort of our homes, behind our keyboards with no accountability or thought given regarding your feelings, our initial response is to criticize you. We cannot begin to imagine the fear that gripped your body, the realization that this might be the end for you, or the pain your body may have been in. I’m sorry that instead of prayers and love, people focus more on your sexual orientation. I am glad that you survived the horrendous actions of that man and I am sorry that Christianity is now skewed in your mind. Please recognize that not all Christians hate. God loves you, and so do I!

To the people who commit the heinous act of cyber bullying-  I urge you to imagine that the tragedy you are referring to, happened to you. Walk for just a moment in their shoes and then re-read your comment. Would you want to read that if you were truly in their position? How can you really be sure that you would be brave enough to tackle the shooter in a moment of darkness and utter chaos? What would you do? The answer is probably the same as mine- I don’t actually know! Imagine that you just received the news that your beautiful two year old son’s body was just recovered from the bottom of the lake. Would you want to be accused of being a horrible parent? No! No human being wants to be criticized in the face of tragedy!

So, it’s time we stop hiding behind the screen and accusing others of not acting in what seems to us as an “easy” manner and remember that love does in fact win!

An Open Letter To Everyone Who Suffers from my Chronic Illnesses

I am addressing this letter to each person in my life who does not personally suffer from chronic illness, but does suffer from the effects of mine. You cannot begin to understand the amount of guilt I carry because I have imposed on your life in ways that are not fair to any of you. Each person that I encounter on a daily or weekly basis is very instrumental in the journey I travel. Please take each word you read, hear my heart behind them and grasp the depth of my appreciation and apologies.


To my loving parents— I am so sorry for putting you through the years of pain, heartache and frustration as we faced the unknown monster of my health. None of us chose this life, but the amazing thing is that you still chose to love me anyway. I am sorry for the added expense, the weeks in the hospital, the late nights awake with me at home, and the hundreds of buckets of puke you’ve so graciously dumped for me. I need you to know that not only am I sorry for all the times you missed out on what you wanted to do because of me, but I also appreciate the sacrifices you have made for me. Thank you for being an example of how to handle struggles with grace and patience. I love you, and please- don’t give up on me!

To my dear husband— I am so sorry that you have to live through this unpleasant journey as well. The main difference between us is that I didn’t choose it, but you did, and I love and respect you even more for that. I am so sorry that I can’t always live up to your expectations of an active and fit lifestyle, I’m sorry that I can’t meet your “needs” each time you desire, I’m sorry that I cry and talk about how I feel often. I want you to know that I feel guilty on a daily basis for putting you through it all, but I also want to thank you for caring about my feelings both physically and emotionally. Thank you for attempting to learn all of the medical vernacular and gibberish that I already know like the back of my hand. Thank you for picking up the slack with the housework and doing so with a smile! Thank you for giving me something to wake up for and believing in me when I don’t believe in myself. And thank you for tackling this beast with me, hand in hand and heart in heart. I love you and please- don’t give up on me!

To my friends and family near and far— I am so sorry for the countless times I have needed to cancel our plans at the last-minute or for the periods of time that I have essentially fallen off the face of the earth. I want you to know that I feel embarrassed every time that situation transpires and it’s my prayer that you don’t assume that I am flaky or that I do not care about you or our friendship. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Honestly, there are instances where I can’t even muster enough energy or brain power to complete priority tasks, much less the things I would enjoy doing. With that said, thank you for the love and support, the care and concern and all of the understanding, and please- don’t give up on me!

To my boss and coworkers– I am well aware that it’s difficult and inconvenient for you and your work load when I am forced to randomly miss days of work without any warning. I hate it just as much as you (if not more) and I am truly sorry. I need you to understand that I can honestly say that I would rather be at work than at home because I am terribly ill or in the hospital hooked up to machines and medicine. (In case you don’t believe me, or understand the gravity of my situation please read my other post entitled When your Chronic Illness Flares and Doesn’t Ask Your Permission). With that said, please don’t consider me to be unreliable or assume that I am simply skipping out. I am extremely thankful that I can rely on you to pick up the slack on the days that I am absent. It’s tremendously helpful to be assured that my duties are covered so I have the ability to rest and recover. The guilt I carry for putting my burdens on your shoulders as well is enormous, but I appreciate your care and concern when I return, and please- don’t give up on me!

To my amazing doctor— Thank you for believing me! Thank you for investing time and care into my frequent visits to your office. Thank you for calling me on holidays to check on my progress since you just started me on a new medication. Thank you for thinking of me when you hear of new medications, treatments, tests or therapies. I can’t begin to adequately express my gratitude for you and the investment you have made into my health and recovery. Thank you for changing my life! We both are well aware that I have an intricate body and my case is extremely puzzling at times, but please- don’t give up on me!


I recognize that there are plenty of people who experience the exact emotions as I do and wish to portray those feelings to the people closest to them. I pray that this letter be a voice for those who are unable to express it themselves. I ask for all of you, whether I know you or not, please don’t give up on us! We hurt in ways you can’t imagine, and we are well aware that you hurt in your own way as well. We appreciate all you do and wouldn’t be where we are without your love, care and sacrifice on our behalf! So, again, thank you!

 

Are you wasting your tears?

If you know me at all, then you are well aware that I am pretty much able to cry on command. With that said, it’s obvious that I definitely have more of an emotional type of personality, and inevitably, over the years, I have shed countless tears for a multitude of reasons. Crying is a natural occurrence in the human life. We cry because we’re happy, sad, tired or while we’re watching that new viral cat video online.

Last night during a worship service at my church, we sang a song by Gateway Worship called “We Bow Low”.

We bow low, we bow low
Faces down to the ground in Your presence Lord
With our tears we wash Your feet
We bow low, we bow low
Falling on our knees
We bow low, we bow low
To the King of Kings

Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy are You Lord forevermore

It was during that personal moment with God that He asked me a question.

“Are you wasting your tears?”

At first I wasn’t sure what He meant, but as I pondered that question throughout the night I realized that at times, I have!

In the book of Luke, there’s an account given of a woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears. She was a sinner, yet she knew who He was and that He was holy and deserving of her everything- even her tears.

Luke 7:37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Do we treat Jesus with that amount of reverence and respect? I’m not saying that it’s wrong to laugh so hard that you cry or even that it’s wrong to cry when you’re sad or hurting. I am suggesting, however, that when we do shed tears in our darkest moments that it should be our first instinct to stop and kneel before God and turn the tears from agony and self-pity to a realization and reverence for the only One that can actually do anything about the giants we face.

Another song I love by Laura Story is called “Blessings”. The lyrics speak of healing and power that comes through difficulties and tears.

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

I know how challenging it can be to not view our difficulties as unmovable mountains. In our flesh, the giants of sickness, loss, heartbreak and financial burdens can often overshadow the power, strength and love of our Father. It’s imperative that we don’t miss out on the blessings and healing that can come through those dark times. Let’s not waste our tears by wallowing in self-pity and sorrow but instead let’s lay it all at His feet and ask Him to carry the heavy burdens for us. I promise He will!

When Your Chronic Illness Flares and Doesn’t Ask Your Permission

My current physical status can be summarized in one word- Pain. Intense, debilitating pain. I’m confined to  my couch, fighting a war against my body that decided that today was a perfect day for a horrible Fibromyalgia flare up and possible kidney infection (I have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to confirm my suspicions of the later).

Considering the degree of pain, I was left with no choice but to call in sick to work, and guess what? My body didn’t even consult me! How dare it!

It’s incredibly difficult to accept the fact that without warning your body can begin to attack itself and leave you with little to no control over when, where, why or how it happens. At this moment, my body is so weak and in so much pain that I’m not writing this blog- I’m speaking it. The level of pain is to the point where my legs can’t touch each other or it resembles two of your worst bruises being pushed together. The elastic on my sweats hurts around my waist and sitting on anything other than the bed or couch brings immediate tears.

You might find yourself in this position as well from time to time- a place of frustrations, discouragement and confusion. A place where you have no control or say as to what or how your body reacts. You may do everything that you’re supposed to- you take your medications, you eat right and still your body fights a civil war within you. It’s in this state of frustration and confusion that I want to encourage you (and myself in the process) on how to deal with your body’s unfortunate decision.

First of all, lets realize that it’s just a flare and flares come and flares go. This doesn’t necessarily change the pain or the inconvenient timing, but it can give you hope that just as quickly as it came, it will go. So, brace yourself, join me and grab a comfy blanket and your favorite pillow (or 6 if you’re like me), sit on the couch, binge watch your favorite show on Netflix and relax.

For some of you this might be harder to accept than others, but listen to your body. It’s what it requires to heal. If you’re doing everything you are supposed to prior to a flare, don’t stop now. Give it what it needs during this delicate time!

Also, please don’t blame yourself. I went through this this morning when I got up and could hardly walk to the restroom. The whole journey there- which is only about 10 steps, but felt like 10 miles- was spent in tears resembling Niagara Falls. When I realized that I had to call in sick to work, the unnecessary guilt swept over me and I started apologizing to my husband as if I had caused this. I felt like if I only could have done something differently then I wouldn’t be in this position, but I know that that’s not true and you do too. We’re given medications and treatments to help, but our bodies have a mind of their own. They will react however they so choose and that’s not your fault.

Don’t believe the lies. Stay strong during the flares, live Beyond the Noise, and join me in a relaxing day surrounded by pillows, Netflix and soup!

When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

We’ve all heard, or said, the phrase “I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired!” and there are a plethora of situations that may have rightfully triggered that statement. It could be because we’ve had the stomach flu for 2 days, bronchitis for 2 weeks or a chronic illness for 2 years. Whatever the reason, it’s a genuine predicament we often find ourselves in. So, what’s the secret formula to counteract it? I have created an acrostic for the word HEALING to give us 7 guidelines to follow on how best to overcome this mindset. But, before you get started, if you haven’t had a chance to read my last post entitled “My history is His-story” you can read that here.

H.E.A.L.I.N.G-

H- HONESTY. So, in the spirit of honesty, and I guess I have to be honest and say that I am guilty of not always being entirely honest when it comes to how I feel- about how I feel! (See what I did there?) I’m more of the peace-maker, anti-confrontational, make everything a non-issue type of person; so, my immediate response is to curl up in a little ball in the back of the closet alone, cry for a few minutes, wipe my tears (and my nose) and then emerge back into real life to face the problem head on- all while pretending that I’m okay even if I’m really not. It might seem like the easy approach at first, but believe me when I tell you that it all surfaces eventually. And, when it does it will resemble something like that of a nuclear explosion that of course isn’t optimal for you or those around you! There’s a song I love by Dara Maclean that’s called “Suitcases”. The lyrics written below speak of how you can’t run when you’re holding suitcases, or baggage. This may be an illness, depression, pain, hurt, betrayal etc. We have to recognize these objects we carry and be honest enough to identify them as baggage and then strong enough to put them down.

Can you imagine what it’s like to be free, oh, oh, oh?
Well, send those bags packing, they are not what you need, oh
Abandon your troubles by the side of the street
Just let them go now, believe me

You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases
Yes, it’s a new day, throw away your mistakes
And open up your heart, lay down your guard
You don’t have to be afraid

Just breathe, your load can be lifted
There’s a better way when you know you’re forgiven
Open up your heart, lay down your guard
You don’t have to be afraid

I’m blessed enough to have a husband and family that care enough about me that they truly desire the honest communication about how I am feeling. I am aware that some of you reading this today may not have that privilege here on earth, but rest assured that your Heavenly Father does care and delights in your honesty and vulnerability. He tells us in His word that we can “cast our anxiety on Him because He cares for us!” That’s how we can run the race before us emotionally, mentally and spiritually even if we can’t physically walk even ½ a mile.

E- ENCOURAGEMENT. Nobody likes to be around negative, grouchy people; but inevitably we will rub shoulders with people of that mindset. We have to make a conscious effort to surround ourselves with positive uplifting people more often than the others.

There is a song by Francesca Battistelli called “Angel By Your Side” that fully describes the type of person we need in our lives.

I can’t say that everything’s okay
‘Cause I can see the tears you’re crying
And I can’t promise to take the pain away
But you can know I won’t stop trying

I’ll be the angel by your side
I will get you through the night
I’ll be the strength you can’t provide on your own

‘Cause when you’re down and out of time
And you think you’ve lost the fight
Let me be the angel, the angel by your side

My dad has always been my best friend and the angel by my side. He was the one that would drive me to my doctor’s appointments, be my voice when I couldn’t speak for myself or stay awake with me when the hallucinations or pain were in full swing. Many a late nights and early mornings were spent in our “cracker cave”. I’m sure you’re not aware of what the “cracker cave” is, so let me enlighten you. This is a place where I felt safe amidst the fear and frustration. My dad and I had it in our minds that crackers fixed everything—until I went on my diet and realized that they most certainly don’t fix anything! But either way, we’d crawl under the covers, tuck the sheet behind our heads to form a tent and flip on a flashlight and eat crackers- in the middle of the night! It was calming, it was fun and it helped me way more than I could ever put into words! My sweet husband has since taken that role over now, and though we’ve never gone into the cracker cave, he is the love, encouragement and support that I need. Whether it be in a parent, a sibling, a  friend or a spouse, there is someone prepared to join you on your journey. So I urge you, just as I did, to find your “Angel By Your Side”.

A- ABILITIES. This is a tool that can help you right here, right now. Wherever you are, focus on the things that you CAN do instead of what you can’t. Maybe like mine,the years usually spent “discovering yourself” has instead been spent battling disease and illness. I have expressed on many occasions that I’m not even sure what I like to do for “fun” and I haven’t gotten to experience “real life”. Although that may be the truth, it shouldn’t dominate our lives. At times it has dominated my mind and actions, and I’m not in the least bit proud of those moments.

So, how do you focus on what you can do when there’s more that you can’t do? Here’s what works best for me. Lists, lists, lists and more lists!!! If you know me at all you know how much I love creating my infamous lists. They keep me grounded and focused so when my Fibro fog sets in and I can’t remember anything to save my life, it’s a visual reminder of what needs to be remembered or accomplished. In an effort to change my thinking, I made a list of things that I like to do. Not only the things I know I can do, but what I really enjoy. After I wrote it all down, there were things that I knew physically would not be an option; however, I did find that there are many activities that I would be able to accomplish on my better days. If we’re honest (which we already said we are going to be!) then we can all admit that occasionally we need a reality check to keep in perspective and at the forefront of our minds that we are, in fact, able to do what we enjoy! So, go make a list!….after you finish the article of course! 😉

L- LAUGHTER- “If I don’t laugh, I’ll cry!” That short statement holds so much truth, and I’m pretty positive that it’s physiologically impossible to be upset and laugh at the same time! Remember the cracker cave I told you about earlier? That was during a time that I could have cried all night, but instead my dad and I raided the kitchen cabinet, grabbed a flash light, told jokes and relived happy memories. You have an option when the storm is raging around you to either choose joy or choose sorrow. The Bible says in Proverbs17:22 that “ A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” I dare you, next time you feel upset, watch a funny video or read a funny story and witness how quickly your attitude changes!

I- INSPIRATION- Where do you find your inspiration? Is it through art, reading, photography, music or journaling? None of these things are bad in and of themselves; however, when we’re in a state of frustration and at our wits end, we need to learn to sift through the “noise” and determine what is helpful and what is hurtful. One of the complications of Secondary Addison’s is when you’re cortisol levels are depleted you have a hard time processing anything. In turn you become emotional and overwhelmed. For me, when my levels drop, I can’t process things as simple as the kitchen timer going off and someone talking all at the same time, much less the gravity of being sick in general. I can usually take an extra stress dose of cortisol and it will kick my brain back into its proper functions and I can pull myself together. When it’s not a drop in cortisol and it’s strictly frustration causing my emotional pain, I find that music and journaling are two things that inspire me. When I turn on worship music, I can literally feel weight being lifted off my shoulders and a calm sweeping over my spirit. In future posts I will share some of these songs along with scriptures that I wrote in my journal over the years praying they will inspire you the way they did me!

N- NO NEGATIVITY. Speaking from a chronically ill perspective there are times that I can’t help but realize just how long it’s been and that I’m just so over it. It’s when I allow myself to adopt that mentality, that slowly but surely the negativity creeps in. I’m sure you’ve been there too, but let me ask you a question. Will that mindset change the fact that you’re chronically ill, or that you have the stomach flu, or a pulled muscle? Does it take the disease and pain away? Nope. That’s a big fat NOPE. So, let’s look at negativity differently for a moment. Think about negatives (those from a camera). They are developed in the dark through a long and slow process. They begin as something that looks useless and are turned into beautiful memories. I know it’s impossible to remove the negative situations completely but we do have the power to alter the way we view them by the promise that they will become beautiful memories!

G- GOD. He is the foundation we must build our lives on and the most important guideline of all. (It’s only listed last in this article because that’s how the acrostic goes; but I guess we saved the best for last!). Sometimes life gets hard and the situations that we face can bring us down. The bright side of it all can be summed up by the message in Casting Crown’s song “Just Be Held”. The lyrics serve as a reminder that when we don’t have it all together and we feel like we have hit our all time low, we can let go, let God and “Just Be Held”.

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

If you haven’t listened to any other song that I’ve referenced in this article; please listen to this one! Close your eyes, shut out the distractions, and let your self be held by the loving hands of your Savior and experience the healing that begins inside of your mind, heart and soul.

I can’t promise that this will take away the pain or the disease in your body, but I do believe that it can alter your prospective of the storm you face. Please know you’re not alone and don’t give up just before the miracle!

My History is His-story

Before we get started, I want to *insert disclaimer here*– This is in no way, shape or form meant to be a “pity party, table for one”! It has honestly been extremely difficult to compose this message into one blog post; and in fact, I have written it three different times in three different ways. I am sincerely begging God to speak through my fingers as I type, and to speak to your heart as you read it! I have prayed over this post that I will articulate my words in a way that my heart will shine through and that the message I am attempting to convey is received and heard by those that find themselves, or a loved one, in a similar situation. My story is a mixture of hurt and hope, and in order to fully portray the gravity of the situation, and to give God the glory He deserves, I believe my time is best spent laying out the nitty gritty details- one by one.

With that said, I’m going to ask you to join me on a journey- One where we’ll climb to the beautiful mountain tops, then down into the darkest of valleys, across calm seas and through radical storms. It’s gonna be quite the ride, but if you’re ready- grab your hiking shoes and your umbrella and let’s go!

I was born and raised (until 14 years old) in San Diego, CA. I loved softball and surfing! My life was active and I was fit; however, it didn’t take long to realize that I was more accident prone than most! Growing up I struggled with kidney stones, gastritis, ear infections and pneumonia quite often! I accidentally swallowed a chicken bone (which my dad will NEVER let me forget), I broke bones or sprained ligaments. I even took away an unwelcome souvenir of sea urchin remains from Hawaii…in the bottom of my foot with surgery and complications to follow!!! With all that said, I’m sure it won’t be hard for you to believe that my “Indian name” was accurately assigned to me as Many Bumps! HA

Anyways– Fast forward to tenth grade. At this point we lived in Cleveland, TN and I attended a Christian high school. I don’t claim that basketball was my sport by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a sport, so I played anyway! During one of our games, I was elbowed in the temple by the opponent and I suffered my first concussion. It was a bad one, and soon after, I noticed my health and body started to change. Fast forward again to my senior year. Now, the sport of choice is volleyball (still not a pro but definitely more my sport!). On senior night, against our rival school, my teammate and I collided on the court and the front of my face was introduced very forcefully to the back of her head! And just like that- another concussion! This one was much more severe and I missed accumulatively about 30 days of school.

By the time the concussion healed, I had graduated high school (As valedictorian mind you!) and I packed up my belongings and moved back to California for my freshman year of college. I made it through my first year with nothing more than kidney stones! I had them removed and ta-da! Success! One year down!

Then, one month into my sophomore year of college, things started to drastically change. Remember when I said our journey would take us down into the valley? Well, we have officially arrived! In October of 2011 I had to leave college, mid semester, and come home for medical testing. My symptoms were manifesting in my GI system, and with the possibility of crossing into TMI-ville, I will do my best to paint a picture of what the next 9 months looked like. Everything I ate or drank (and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING) instantly came back up as soon as I stopped chewing and swallowing. Things then progressively got worse. I became so weak and my blood pressure was so low that I would faint at random times, I was unable to fall asleep until 7 or 8 am, I had hallucinations at night where I saw, heard and felt things that of course, weren’t there. And, at 18 years old, I found myself a shut in. I was only able to leave for doctor’s appointments, and even that felt like I was forcing my body to run a marathon! The pain in my bones, muscles and joints became excruciating. My body felt like one huge bruise. I couldn’t carry a purse, be hugged, and even the seat belt in the car hurt me. Being unable to absorb any nutrients from the foods I ate, since it never stayed down long enough, left me malnourished and even weaker! I went to acupuncture, multiple doctors near home, Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, and the local hospital on many occasions. I tried every drink and supplement that promised that “it can even cure cancer!” and yet I saw no results and received no answers! The first procedure I had beyond the initial endoscopes and colonoscopies was my gallbladder removal. The HIDA scan proved that my gallbladder was diseased and not functioning properly. There was a glimmer of hope that they had finally found the culprit! I went in to what was supposed to be an outpatient procedure with high expectations. Those expectations were quickly dashed when that out-patient surgery hospitalized me for a week. My body responded extremely slowly to the waking up process from the anesthesia and every system in my body was essentially asleep and not functioning properly. When I was finally discharged, I still left without any inkling as to what was wrong, and all of my symptoms were still present. My body eventually healed from surgery and the testing road began again.

Over the next few months I had a plethora of tests performed on my body. Some of the most bizarre I underwent were where you eat a radio-active scrambled egg while laying on your back under an x-ray type machine and they watch the egg travel through your digestive system, where you drink barium in front of an x-ray type machine and they watch the same things occur, or where they insert a probe up your nose and into your stomach and then have you drink water. Mind you, I’m still not able to tolerate any food or drinks without “getting sick” during these tests! It was definitely one of the darkest valleys in my life!

Symptoms like these continued and I was ultimately put on blood pressure, sleeping, thyroid and asthma medications to act to band aid an unknown cause. I was ultimately referred to an endocrinologist whose medical practice was more unconventional. This doctor thought more “outside the box” than the rest of the medical teams I had been seeing. He ordered an Insulin Tolerance Test where they administer insulin through an IV until your body crashes. When you do, they draw blood and take your blood pressure and then quickly reverse the insulin reaction by administering a mixture of sugar and water through the IV.

It was this very test that began my journey across the calm seas! I was diagnosed with Secondary Addison’s Disease. (read about it here) Secondary Addison’s simply means that my pituitary gland produces an undetectable amount of ACTH. ACTH is a hormone that tells your adrenal glands to produce Cortisol– another hormone that controls your ability to react to stress, pain, infection and the normal ups and downs within a day etc. Every normal body produces a base amount and then the levels fluctuate throughout the day based on your activities or stress levels. Mine produces none- ever. All of this stems back to the concussions. They essentially “broke” my pituitary gland. I was put on steroids (replacement cortisol) and it drastically reduced the vomiting! YAY!! However, the steroid I was on was very unstable and my body required different amounts at different times of day and it was very hard to manage. I found my body “crashing” quite often and I would still end up in the hospital in an Adissonian Crisis from time to time. Around this time I was additionally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Fibromyalgia and inflammation in my airways causing asthma like symptoms.  Even with the unstable nature of the medications, and the additional diagnoses’, I was beyond thankful for the improvement I had experienced.

Eventually I recovered enough to attempt college yet again. I took all of my medications and my handy dandy barf bucket and transferred to a college in Pensacola, FL. This time, a little closer to home! Though I had improved drastically, I still struggled and found myself in bed more than I was out and about experiencing true college life. I persevered and made it through the whole year and even made the Dean’s List!

A month after I came home from school, my parents and I packed up the big yellow Penske moving truck and drove ten hours to Bradenton, FL where we had decided to move. I mean, let’s be real, you can’t expect us beach folk to survive too long in a land locked state with rivers and mountains surrounding us! It was time for sun, salt and sand again! Shortly after the move, I was referred to a doctor here that honestly changed my life! She introduced me to a diet called the “elimination diet”. I’ll expand on this in a future post, but you basically eliminate all foods that can be allergens for 28 days. Because of the state that my body was in, I stayed on this step for a total of 76 days. You then introduce the foods back into your diet one at a time to see how your body reacts. Honestly, I got worse before I got better and it was discouraging. I had gained a ton of weight, and my pain and overall well being began to quickly decline. For the next 5 months I found myself, yet again, a shut in. The only way that I could accurately express the way that I felt was by explaining that I felt like an 80 year old living in an 18/19/20/21 year old body! Eventually, the diet started to help, my team of doctors changed some medicines around and I began to lose weight as well as gain strength and independence. I got a part time job to ease into the working world and then a few months later, I ended up back in the hospital in another Addisonian Crisis. It was discouraging. VERY discouraging! I had to leave that job to recover and focus on regaining my strength. By the time I started to recover again, I realized that I had lost a total of 60 pounds, 6 pant sizes, 4 shirt sizes, ½ a shoe size and 1 ring size! I was able to get another job, still part time to ease back in, but another job nonetheless!

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Above is a one year transformation photo!

Since September of 2014 I have struggled, but not like the years I described previously. I still have Secondary Addison’s Disease, Hashimoto’s, Fibromyalgia and asthma. I have also since had blood clots in my leg, I’ve been to the hospital for kidney stones, a few Addisonian crisis’s, and migraines. To this day I take a minimum of 43 pills a day, I have 6 food allergies which are gluten, dairy, corn, potato, rice and eggs and I also stay away from cane sugar 95 percent of the time (and when I do let it sneak in it’s extremely minimal!). I have a full time job and a month and a half ago I became a wife to the most handsome, supportive, loving husband ever!

So, that’s the story behind my tears, and the same story behind my smile. Yes, these years have been filled with pain, hurt, sorrow and despair, but none of those feelings have been able to have complete control of me.  You might be wondering how I am even able to say that after reading what my body has gone through. I wrote my journey in the public blog format and asked you to read it because I want to be the one to tell you that the feelings of hope, peace, faith and trust that I am privileged to have experienced on a deep and personal level are so much more powerful than the negative feelings! It doesn’t take the physical pain away and please don’t misunderstand me by interpreting what I am saying as “all you have to do is say ‘123- repeat after me’ and your problems will magically disappear!” I’ll be honest and tell you up front that they won’t, but the power that they have over you can slip away in the blink of an eye. Think about how much power, control and sovereignty is contained in Heaven! All of that is offered to us here on earth as God’s children we just have to “tap into” that power. I will expand on this topic in another blog post very soon, but I’m sure at this point you’re scrolling to the bottom to see how much longer until she’s done rambling! I’m almost done, I promise! Everything you’ve read today comes down to this one detail. God has never left you and He never will leave you! In the words of Colton Dixon’s song “Through it All” he portrays a time in life where you hit rock bottom- you are in the depths of despair but through it all God was there! He says:

There are days I’ve taken more than I can give
And there are choices that I made
That I wouldn’t make again
I’ve had my share of laughter
Of tears and troubled times
This is has been the story of my life

I have won
and I have lost
I got it right sometimes
But sometimes I did not
Life’s been a journey
I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret
Oh and You have been my God
Through all of it

You were there when it all came down on me
When I was blinded by my fear
And I struggled to believe
But in those unclear moments
You were the one keeping me strong
This is how my story’s always gone

Let’s live our lives, whether it’s with chronic illness or another physical or emotional struggle, Beyond the Noise. Beyond the noise of people telling us that there’s no hope, we’re alone, we’ll never be “normal”, we’re not worth it, we’re such a bother etc., and let’s tap into His voice that tells us that we’re beautiful, loved and worth far more than the most expensive ruby. Friend, you’re so worth it to Him that He gave His only Son as a sacrifice for you so you can live eternally with Him! Surrender control of your circumstance over to the One who designed and formed you in His image- the One that believes in you. Let Him carry you and your burden through the storms. Thank Him for entrusting you with the responsibility of being a light to a dark and hurting world. Don’t overlook the fact that God assigns His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers, and hold tight to the hope that it will all be okay because your history is His story!

I know this was a long and treacherous journey, but we made it! It will have paved the way for future posts to explain, in more detail, practical ways to overcome challenges and storms. So until then, stay strong,my friends and live Beyond the Noise!

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Word of God Speak

Hello there and welcome to my very first blog post! Okay, okay! I know what you’re thinking right about now (and no I’m not a mind reader, I’ve just thought the exact same thing before!). You’re probably thinking “Great, here’s another blog based off of some girl’s opinion about things that probably don’t even matter!” I am well aware of what they say about opinions. “Opinions are like arm pits- Everyone has them and most of them stink!” Seriously, though! Who are “they” and what do “they” know?! My sole intention is to provide reading material that changes your preconceived notions by writing about real life! The beautiful parts, the ugly parts, the parts you wish you could forget- but nevertheless all parts that make up life!

You might be wondering where the name of my blog came from. I have been pondering the possibility of creating a blog to act as a beacon of hope and joy to the hurting world out there for quite some time! Of course you can’t have a blog without a name, so I asked God to give me an idea! And He laid the popular song by Mercy Me called “Word of God Speak” on my heart! The lyrics are simple but powerful.  The song is conveying a message that when we have no words to speak, we can find ourselves right there with God- beyond the music and Beyond the Noise and in that quiet place we can hear God speak!

I’m finding myself in the midst of You
Beyond the music, beyond the noise
All that I need is to be with You
And in the quiet hear Your voice

Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
Your majesty
To be still and know
That You’re in this place
Please let me stay and rest
In Your holiness
Word of God speak

There is something so beautiful and comforting to experience His still small voice, yet I am well aware that amidst all of the “noise” our minds and hearts are cluttered with on a daily basis, it’s incredibly hard to hear Him speak. I am no expert and I’ll be the first to admit that fail at this daily, however my life is proof that He does in fact speak. It would be absurd to live our lives isolated from the real world, so instead we need to learn how to filter the unnecessary from the necessary. The helpful from the hurtful. The easiest way to live Beyond The Noise is to follow the guidance given us in Psalms 46:10- Be still and know that I am God!

In my next post, I will take you on my journey through chronic illness and some of the darkest times of my life with one sole purpose of providing hope that you too can hear His voice- even in the valley.

So, until next time, my dear readers! I urge you to Be still- live beyond the noise and hear His beautiful voice speak to you!