Monday, July 31, 2017

Life, Lemonade, and Burnt Biscuits

This was one of my very first blog posts from when I started blogging seven years ago.  It still rings true today!  Well all but the "Burnt Biscuits" part that is... I learned my lesson.  NEVER leave anyone else to care for your baked goods.  It doesn't end well... LOL.  Enjoy!

I’ve heard it said before “When life deals you lemons, make lemonade.” I guess it’s all about perspective. Life can be unpredictable at times. It doesn’t always follow the natural pattern we lay out for it. It can bring many unexpected and sometimes unwanted surprises along the way. I faced a recent challenge in the kitchen which caused me to come up with my own mantra for life… “When life gives you burnt biscuits, peal off a layer and it’s all good!”

I was making dinner recently and left biscuits baking in the oven, with a timer on in the care of another. I was only planning to be gone for a few minutes, but when I returned the biscuits had already burned. They weren’t just a little brown, they were BLACK. What a predicament… two packages of biscuits burnt and none left to bake. I couldn’t bear to throw them in the trash, so I cut off the bottoms and did what any mom would do, served them up. Maybe the boys wouldn’t notice, after all one was jumbo style and the other was the layered kind of biscuits! Maybe the sheer height and many layers would cover over my mistake. To my surprise the boys loved the biscuits and said they were the best ever… they didn’t even notice the bottom part was missing.

Have you ever felt like life was taking over and not cooperating with your pre-scheduled plan? Things haven't gone as expected. The loss of a job, a shaky marriage, financial hardship, family squabbles, a death of someone close to you, broken relationships, and unfulfilled dreams… the list could go on and on of all of the hurts we have faced in this thing called life. Sometimes we can’t necessarily change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes. It has been said before that “Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” Ouch! If you are like me, I don’t always react in the way I would like when life throws me curveballs. But with God’s help, I can learn to have the right attitude and perspective no matter what comes my way.

Matthew 6:34 says...
“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today." (NLT)

I have learned some lessons from my burnt biscuit escapade that I hope will help you on your journey.

Lessons Learned from Burnt Biscuits:
(God perspectives from the kitchen)

1. Look for the good in every situation!
There is always something to be thankful for no matter how small. I guess at least the biscuits didn’t catch fire and set off the smoke detector. And we were able to eat them… all good reasons to be thankful I suppose.

2. Go with the flow!
Things won’t always go as planned. Look for a back up plan. There are usually many options in each situation you face. Look at them all and choose the best option with God's help. I chose to keep the biscuits!

3. Set the tone!
Have you ever noticed how when something goes wrong there is always someone there to watch how you will react to it? It never fails! Most people normally tend to react in negative ways when things don’t go their way. I could have gotten angry, irritated, and set a negative, tense tone in my house, but I chose the high road (at least on that day). You have an opportunity to set a positive tone for those around you by your reaction to things. I challenge you to go with the flow and look for the good in it all!  You won't regret it!

4. Give it to God and trust Him!
Some things just happen and you have to go with the flow. Learn to trust God with the outcome whether it’s good or bad. He has it all under control even when things feel out of control.

Remember it’s all about perspective… seeing things differently. Change your outlook and you will change the atmosphere around you. You can’t change your circumstances, but you can change how you react to them.

I pray you will be challenged this week to face your circumstances with a “different” perspective. You have the ability to make a positive difference in your world no matter what comes your way. Choose the high road and watch what God does!

Living to leave a legacy,

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Nothing is Wasted

My name is Julie and this is MY story.  We all have a story to tell.  Mine is a story of HOPE in the midst of darkness.  I still remember the day it all happened. 

It was February of 2006, eleven years ago.  I was driving home from visiting family.  A trip that should have taken me 8 hours ended up taking 14 hours to get home.  I grew weaker mile by mile. I had no idea that I was gradually losing control of the muscles in my eyes, mouth, and neck. 

As I drove down the highway, not only was I getting weaker, but I also began having double vision.  It was a blurry mess attempting to discern where the road might be found in the midst of the busy weekend traffic.  If that wasn’t enough trouble, my eye lids started getting heavy threatening to close and my neck started weakening making it difficult for me to hold my head up.  I felt helpless.  Nobody was with me on this trip, so I was all alone dealing with this until I could get home.

When I finally made it home, I dropped into my bed in complete exhaustion.  When morning arrived I thought I would wake up rested, but was shocked to discover that I could barely move at all.  In fact, I needed assistance to get out of my own bed.  Something was seriously wrong, but I didn’t know what!!!

My husband jumped into high gear right away when he could see I wasn’t getting better.  He took care of our boys (who were in Kindergarten and first grade), the house, made all meals, and worked a night job so I wouldn’t have to worry about the boys while he was gone.  He was amazing!

In the meanwhile we visited doctors; had tests done, and met with specialists… attempting to figure out what was making me so sick.  The double vision continued.  My speech slurred as I spoke. It was difficult to both understand and hear me when I spoke because my voice weakened as the day went on to a faint whisper.    I had trouble swallowing.  I could barely eat.  I choked on solid food… even on water at times. 

My husband got creative in feeding me.  He concocted special shakes for me to drink.  He filled them with whatever he could find in the fridge to blend up that might help me gain weight and feel stronger.  I was dropping weight quickly.

Mini Marathon
After three months they finally diagnosed me with an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis.  It affects everyone differently and mine was a worst-case scenario.  MG weakens the muscles all over your body.  The best way I can describe it is like this… it’s similar to MS in the way it affects the muscles, however it doesn’t get progressively worse.  It also has ups and downs, remissions and flare ups kind of like Fibromyalgia. This is a disease that is not necessarily life threatening, but definitely life altering.

At its best in a sense of remission I was able to walk a mini marathon and complete it.  At its worst I was bedridden during one flare up for a whole year struggling to talk, eat, walk, and care for myself.  I could only get out of bed for four hours a day and I lost 75 pounds in 6 months.  I struggled to gain weight.  I dropped under 100 pounds quickly to just skin and bones.  It was a scary season.

I cannot talk about being sick without sharing my inner struggles with it all.  I had moments of doubt, fear, despair, and disappointment.  When I was the sickest, my bedroom became the place where I lived most of the time.  To say I had a lot of down time is an understatement.  I had time to… think, worry, get lonely, wonder where God was, and be frustrated. 

During a very dark season, God and I had a conversation.  He was there in the quiet of my thoughts.  He and I talked often, but this time was different.   If I have ever felt close to death this was it.  I felt useless and a burden to my family… both physically and financially.  I couldn’t help with anything… homework with the boys, making their lunches, helping get pj’s on before bed, or anything around the house.  I had absolutely NO energy.   I felt helpless and hopeless as a mom.

When I looked into my husband’s eyes I saw sadness... helplessness.  No matter how hard he tried to hide it, I could see worry and a hint of fear behind his smile.  He was filling the roles of both mom and dad with the boys.  I could tell it was taking its toll on him.  He did his best to keep me involved with the boys regardless of my limitations.  Each night they would come see me before bed.  Our time was filled with cuddles as they told me about their day.  Their giggles, hugs, and kisses would make my heart smile.   

Despite my love for my family, I struggled to watch them hurt anymore because of me.  My husband looked so tired.  I felt like the kids were missing out on so much because everyone was so concerned about me.  It wasn’t fair! 

“It would be better…”  I thought.  “…if God just took me home.”  I didn’t want my family to suffer any longer.  I had put them through so much already.  I begged for God to take me.  I had settled things in my spirit and I was ready.

I remember sharing with my husband one night that I was done.  I told him… “I have no more energy to fight.”  He was very upset.  He said, “If nothing else, you need to FIGHT for your family… for your boys!  They would be devastated if anything happened to you.”  I could tell he was on the brink of tears. 
In that moment something broke inside of me and urged me to fight.  I sensed God’s presence wrapping around me filling me with His peace.  I was not alone.  He would be fighting with me too.  I was determined to hang on a little bit longer, but I felt so dead… inside and out. 

I was at the place where I realized that I couldn’t fix it, my husband couldn’t fix it, my doctor couldn’t fix it, and the prayer warriors at my church couldn’t fix it.  It came down to me and Jesus.  He was all that I had left!

I had to learn to trust Him completely no matter what happened.  I could have walked AWAY from God during this season, but instead I chose to run TO Him.  God was REAL to me!  He had always taken care of me in the past, why should now be any different.  I NEEDED to trust Him!  Hope was ignited within me.

It wasn’t long after that dark night that I got a new doctor who was appalled by my condition.  Within weeks he had me on a series of treatments that helped me become 90% better than I had been the previous year.  I guess God wasn’t finished writing my story.  With this new doctor my health improved and with it doors opened for me to share my story with others. 

I have faced many hurdles with my health over the years.  We have tried various treatments to manage my condition.  Some worked for a while and then eventually all the symptoms would come back again.  It’s an ongoing battle of ups and downs.  Needless to say it hasn’t been easy for me or my family.  With medication and a lot of prayer, I have moved forward.

Over the years I have prayed that none of my time struggling with this dreaded disease would ever be wasted.  When I think about all the time I spent stuck in my house, my prison of sorts, it troubles me.  Who has a whole year of their life to throw away?  I didn’t think I did!  I want God to redeem every moment of waiting, worrying, and wondering.  I pray my story inspires others to keep pushing forward trusting God when their difficulties come.

God never ceases to amaze me at how He uses my story as a tool to minister to others.  He has taken me behind doors to places I never thought I would ever go.  I have met people I never thought I would ever encounter.  Divine appointments and open doors have been in abundance as I have trusted Him with the details of my life.  My story of pushing through and trusting God in good times and bad has echoed God’s love to… Nurses, doctors, medical professionals, the old, the young and hurting.   I’ve found that it’s in the messy moments of life that people are drawn to Christ in us the MOST!  God knows my life has been beyond messy… for sure!

I haven’t been completely healed of this yet, but I trust Him!  My faith has grown as I have learned to surrender and believe God for impossible things!  There is one truth that has settled deep into my spirit from that dark season of my life.  When I came to the end of myself and realized that nobody else could help me, I discovered this…

“When you have nothing left BUT God
you find out quickly that He is ALL you really need!”
If my messy, faith walk of trusting God with this sickness can help inspire others to trust Him more, then I surrender.  He is the writer of my story and my inspiration for living.  May my life in good times and bad reflect Him well!

Have you been there before friend?  …in that place you don’t really want to be.  Have you ever felt like something was WASTED in your life?  I felt like my whole year was wasted.  What could I have done during that time if I had the chance?   Only God knows.  

Wasted!  You can’t help but feel defeated when you think about it.  My “wasted” relates to days spent being sick.  For you it may be something else entirely.  I have a question for you friend… whatever “wasted” is for you, will you trust Him?  Will you surrender the reigns of your life over to God and trust Him in good times and bad?  He is faithful friend.  I promise.

God, I pray you would be with my friends today… those who are struggling with trusting you with the details of their lives and those who are doing their best to push through.  Help their faith roots to grow deep as they learn to surrender to you.  Help them to cling to the good, focus on the positive, and see the opportunity for a miracle to happen in every situation.  I pray all fear would be diminished as they step out in faith believing you for impossible things.  Instead of running AWAY from you when facing difficulties, I pray they would run TO you.  Be their greatest source of strength today.  Shine your light upon their life in such a way that others are drawn to you in them.  Thank you God that you aren’t finished writing our story… The best is yet to come!  We love you.

Living to leave a legacy,

P.S.  If you would like to see an abbreviated video version of my story, you can check it out at the link below.  Thanks for reading!