Permanent? Noooooo!

I have loved having a handicapped parking permit this past year; it’s enabled me to walk a doable-for-me distance until I can reach a store’s scooter or a restaurant’s table and chairs.  It’s also great for my family when I need to use the wheelchair for longer distances.

My permit is about to expire, so I filled out the renewal form and gave it to my doctor for him to complete.  He and I each had a box to check to tell whether the permit would be for temporary use (4 months to 1 year) or permanent use (4 years).  I left it blank on my section, because I wasn’t sure which to check.

Well, we got the completed form back, and my heart sank when I saw what he had checked.  Permanent.  WAAAAAAH!

permanent

Now, really, this just saves me the hassle of renewing it each year; it does not have a huge underlying significance that means I will never get better.  Still, my 11-year-old, David, will be disappointed; he often mentions he’s glad Mama has a red (temporary) permit, and not a blue (permanent) one, because that means, to him, that I’m not TOO bad off.  I’ll admit a box marked “Permanent” does make my illness seem, well, more permanent.

When I was being treated at Vanderbilt’s Autonomic Dysfunction Center, I asked what I could do to make POTS and NCS go away and how long it would last.  My doctor there told me there was nothing I could do, and she didn’t think it would go away in my case.

However, I have several friends who often tell me they think this WILL go away and just encourage me to keep waiting.

I don’t know who is right and what God’s plans are, but I know a lot of you are praying for me; thank you!  I am not going to let that blue tag ruin my day.  We cannot know what God will do.

What difficulty do you have in your life that seems permanent?  What hard times have you gone through that you have seen God change or take away or redeem?

I do know one thing permanent:  God’s love for you and me.  Rejoice with me that “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

God meets you and me in the midst of kale

I told you last week that I didn’t want to make lemonade from lemons and enticed you with a brownie-nut smoothie that God could make for you out of life’s kale (trials).

Now, I wouldn’t wish kale, literal or figurative, on anyone.  I never had kale until I developed POTS and NCS and tried Dr. Terry Wahls’ protocol of consuming 9 cups of produce a day to promote natural healing.  While I didn’t keep that regimen up, I still do eat kale most days– massaged kale salads, kale chips, or my favorite, smoothies with kale.   I admit, though, I didn’t really want to start eating kale, and I’d give it up in a heartbeat if it weren’t so healthy.

Likewise, I don’t want trials.  I’d give them up, and I’d take them away from friends and family, if I could.  I don’t want my friend to suffer the heartbreak of her husband’s affair or of his porn addiction or of her lonely Friday nights.  I want my friend to carry a baby to term and not feel the pain of infertility.  I want my friend who just moved to make friends with whom she can build a history and true community.  I want my nephew and my friends’ kids–as well as my adult friends and relatives– healed from special needs, life-threatening allergies, autism, cancer, rare illnesses.  I want jobs restored, flooded homes rebuilt, ebola eradicated, Iraqi Christians rescued, and persecutors’ hearts changed.

But God says He works all things together for good, for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  I don’t know how that is, but I have to trust that though our trials are painful, scary, sad, discouraging, HORRIBLE, He is going to use them for His glory.  I have to trust that the not-so-yummy kale I swallow down is going to work good in my body.  I am thankful God will never abandon us in our trials and can redeem our kale, our suffering, into something beautiful, maybe even yummy.

So, here’s my working out of, “If God gives you kale, let Him make you a brownie-nut smoothie.”

Brownie-Nut Smoothie

Brownie-Nut Smoothie Ingredients (disclaimer: I was out of kale!  Crazy!  This is frozen spinach.)
Brownie-Nut Smoothie Ingredients (disclaimer: I was out of kale. Crazy! This is frozen spinach.  So me!)

2 cups kale:   Many of us can agree that kale is a trial.  🙂  Kale is also a powerhouse, though, of nutrients that can give your body much energy and strength.  Your trial may indeed bring blessing and spiritual health.

1 very ripe, frozen banana:  Bananas used to be a rarity to many around the world.  Its tropical sweetness makes a huge difference in this smoothie.  What rare sweetness is God bringing into your suffering?

1/2 cup frozen blueberries:  Blueberries are another superfood, and they add fantastic flavor to this smoothie, but they are expensive.  Look to see how God is providing for you in the midst.

Dash of cayenne pepper:  A little taste of heat gives it a kick like Mexican chocolate.  This is a stretch, maybe, but think of the way God guided the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years (Exodus).  The cloud by day protected them from the hot sun, while the fire at night warmed them and gave them light.  Ask God to warm you and guide you.

2 heaping spoonfuls of ground flaxseed:  I often use flaxseed, because it gives strength and energy and is good for your brain.  Remember when God told Abraham his descendants would outnumber the grains of sand by the shore, the stars in the sky?  This flaxseed can remind us of those praying for us and even of the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on.  Others’ prayers will help sustain you.

2  heaping spoonfuls of cocoa powder:  The cocoa powder is bitter on its own, like your trials, but brings that chocolate yumminess we all crave.  As you experience hard times on top of your trial, ask God to give you goodness during it all, what a friend of mine calls “Cinderella moments.”

1/2 cup almondmilk (or other milk or substitute):  Not sure what to say about almondmilk.  Any ideas?  Comment below!

Blend all, adding more liquid if needed.  Add ice.  Blend again.  Add 1/4 c almonds and blend lightly, so the almonds are still a bit chunky.

And voila.  This makes enough for you and a friend.

smoothie
I love that my grandmother embellished this napkin.

You know what?  I realize this smoothie might not look THAT amazing, maybe even a teensy bit yucky.  You and I still may not want to drink it.  This is probably NOT really what you think of when you hear “brownie-nut.”  God’s plans for you, the trials He has brought you, may not be how you envisioned your life.  I know that’s true for me.  And all the sweetness, strength, and nutrition in the smoothie may not completely take away the presence of kale in each sip, even though they sure help me get it down.  This is where we trust, friends, through the suffering.

What is the kale in your life right now?  I’d love to be flaxseed, one of the grains of sand, God’s people, praying for you.

Fantastic video clip of Dr. Kent Brantly praising God after ebola recovery

Well, while you are waiting with bated breath for my smoothie recipe, I have something to fill your time.  I guess resting at home while your kids are at school does have its perks!  I was thrilled this morning to watch Kent Brantly’s live testimony on national TV after his release from the hospital for ebola treatment; he contracted ebola as a missionary in Liberia through Samaritan’s Purse.  Love what he prayed for!  Love how God worked! Love how he gives Him all the glory! 

Watch it here, and pass it on!

(I’m sorry I can’t embed the video here and will keep trying.)

What to do with life’s lemons and kale?

Picture-perfect lemonade, not made by me
Picture-perfect lemonade, not made by me

I was thinking about the saying, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  I’m not so sure I could do it.  Here’s how the real Kristi, in my own strength, would attempt to make lemonade.

First, get a lemon.  Hmm… what lemon?  The lemon I got is probably going away any day (denial).  Anyway, my lemon’s not nearly as bad as what’s happening in Iraq (true, but minimizes my suffering).  I don’t really want to think about, face, or deal with my lemon by squeezing it (fear).  We’ll just use some imitation juice from the bright, yellow, squeezable plastic lemon.

Next, sugar.  Ahhh… let’s give sweetness a try.  Well, I’m not sure I’m feeling sweet; I’m feeling sorry for myself, because I can’t even unload the dishwasher in one go, due to symptoms.  No problem, the kids can do it; hey, what doesn’t kill them will only make them stronger, right?  Oh, and son, I can’t come to your soccer game, because the field isn’t really accessible.  I’ll send a bobblehead of Mama for Daddy to wave around and cheer, okay?  It’s the thought that counts, right?  And sorry, friends, I can’t return your call or e-mail or get together, because I feel like I have the flu, am super nauseous and faint, have a splitting headache, and have to prop my head up with my hand.  But, hey, we’re still BFFs, right?  Um, okay.  That sounds a little more like the pastel packet of slightly bitter, fakely sweet, powdery concoction that may or may not have carcinogens lurking throughout.

All right, we’ve got the imitation squeezable lemon juice and the fake sweetness.  I’m going to have to stop there, because 1) I’m a quitter.  2) I can’t think of anything funny to say about fresh water. 3) There’s no way I have the strength to stir it up and serve it in a cute mason jar with an adorable, striped paper straw.

Lemons like illness, betrayal, infertility, death, abandonment (and so much more) are too hard to make lemonade from on our own.  If you want lemonade, get the freshly-squeezed stuff at Chick-Fil-A.  

Might I be even cheesier than I’ve been so far, though (is that possible?), and suggest, “If God gives you kale, let Him make you a brownie-nut smoothie”?  That’s catchy enough for a bumper sticker, right?  Just go with me. I was up at 1 a.m. last night thinking about this current fave smoothie (I drink a lot of green smoothies), and this may work.

Stay tuned for the recipe.

backtoschool
Luke, 2nd grade; David, 5th grade; Ella, 1st grade

On a cute note, here are David, Luke, and Ella this morning, back to school.  Today marks the first day in 11 years that one, two, or all of my children will not be with me for all or part of the full school day.  To mark the occasion, I am still in my pajamas.  I am sad, excited, nervous, surprised, thankful, curious, nauseous (oops; that’s unrelated).  It’s definitely quiet around here!

 

A little better, a little while

This is a long post, but if you have ever experienced a lack of hope, read on!

I just had a few fabulous days: I was not as faint; I was a good bit perkier and not even as nauseous.  I thoroughly enjoyed throwing myself into fun with my family, conversations with friends, and even a little extra house cleaning.  What a blessing!

Now the fun is over, and I’m back to my new normal– feeling yucky.  POTS is an illness in which you don’t tend to see linear improvement, and that slams right up against the American mindset of working hard and seeing results.  What happened to “I can do/be anything I want as long as I work hard enough and want it badly enough”?

The world’s most patient husband (that would be mine) had to deal with me telling him, “I think I’m cured!” about a hundred times in my first year of POTS (okay, actually, I said it yesterday, too).  If I ever felt good (or good-ish) for 15 minutes or so, I was pretty sure I was done with POTS & NCS forever and immediately began rejoicing before symptoms came rushing back.

In those better moments and days, I feel thrilled, grateful, excited, joyful.  I am great at being content then.  When illness comes back, I realize I have not yet learned the secret of being content in every situation.  Where is my hope?  Is it in feeling perky and less symptomatic?  Or is it in trusting in my sovereign God, even when His rod and staff are not leading me beside still waters?

During these times, I especially need the truth.  I need God’s powerful words from Scripture.  I need hymns and songs that tell me of His goodness and assure me that I can run to Him.  I need friends who pray for me and help me wait.  I need the Comforter’s presence and strength.

And guess what?  I HAVE all those.

It’s not always that easy, though, as some of you know.  Sometimes God feels far.  Sometimes one cannot see past the muck and mire.  Sometimes one is deep in a pit, with no clear way out.  Robin Williams is much in the news this week.  I grieve that he saw no hope, and I can even empathize a bit.

I remember a time years ago when I realized I could not guarantee my own safety or strength of spirit.  For months, I clung to this part of a Puritan prayer:

“Cast cords of love around my heart, then hold me and never let me go,… that I might not turn away from my Beloved.”

I desperately, continually begged that God would keep me, as I could not.  I knew I needed those cords of love– cords that ensured life, not cords that led to death.

Maybe you are like me, and you cannot always hang on.  Maybe you cannot find hope and know you can’t just drum it up by running an inspirational screen saver or memorizing more verses.  Maybe, like me, you cannot always give thanks, in all circumstances.

Praise God that He, in His infinite strength and love, will hold on to me.  He will hold on to you, too– even if your faith is as weak as a mustard seed.  Let your heart cry out, “Help me.”  When you cannot eke out a weak “help,” know that if you are in Christ, the Spirit prays for you.  And wait upon the Lord.  He will not abandon you.

Don’t know Jesus?  He came for the needy, the sick, the desperate, the hopeless.  Faith in Him leads to life– read the book of John, that you may believe.

These legs are made for walking

I want to walk.  I mean, really walk.  Like cover some ground, explore new places, get sweaty, walk.  I have recently felt led to pray boldly to God to help me walk– really walk– again.

Now, I can and do walk some.  My legs work fine.  Being able to walk around the house or short distances from the car is a huge blessing that I no longer take for granted, and I am grateful.  But with POTS and NCS, my brain doesn’t tell my blood to circulate properly when I’m upright, so I can only walk short distances before symptoms become too bad, my brain gets too little oxygen, and I have to sit down.

Mark and I would love to see me hiking again, us strolling hand-in-hand down the street again (not me pushed in the wheelchair), me parking far from stores and walking to my heart’s content, me exploring our neighborhood with the kids, me shopping without a scooter.  Not walking far makes impossible a lot of things we’d like to do and that are usually a part of most people’s daily lives.

So, why haven’t I been praying for this all along?

If I’m being honest, it’s because I’ve been scared– scared of God saying “no” and me being disappointed.  Lately, though, God has answered some of my specific prayers for friends in wonderful ways.  I think He’s giving me the courage to approach His throne of grace boldly, as He tells me to do in His Word.

And the other day, in the space of a half hour, He sent two people coming down my path, right in front of the park bench where my grandmother and I sat as my kids played nearby.  One person, an attractive woman in her 40s, was walking awkwardly, painfully, with the use of a cane.  Another, a young man close to 20 uttering garbled words, was being pushed by his mother, his flailing limbs strapped in a high-tech wheelchair.

I felt as though, through these people, God was reminding me He is sovereign.  He cares about His suffering children.  Many are struggling with very difficult, no-easy-answer situations, tangible or not.  He is going to work His will in my life– and the lives of all His children– for good, no matter how He answers my prayers.  I can trust Him, and I am going to be praying boldly, “Lord, I want to walk.  If it be Your will, please let me walk.”  I am also going to have to rely on Him out of my own physical weakness or any strength He gives me.

I know that whatever my journey–literal and figurative– looks like on this earth, I will join with many others as we walk together one day:  “then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:6).

What are you nervous to pray for?

P.S.  I love this blogpost, “There are more important things in life than walking.”