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Five Minute Friday: Visit

When was the last time you actually visited someone? I’m sorry to say for me it has been a long time. There are some practical reasons for this, but that doesn’t negate the fact that in-person visits are of value.

Living with chronic illness makes it unsafe for me to drive.  That combined with difficulties traveling by myself, limited stamina for outings, my husband’s busy schedule, and financial pressures have made me basically a stay-at-home person. With my husband’s help, I make it to doctors’ appointments and to our church most Sunday mornings, but otherwise I’m home bound. Most of my friends are ladies I either haven’t seen in years or have never actually met in person. 

With today’s technology, I’ve become accustomed to online relationships, and that in itself isn’t bad. In fact, many times my online contacts are my main source of both daily encouragement and of encouraging others. But the value of actual in-person visits can’t be totally replaced by typing a message into a text, Facebook post or email. I long for a way to visit extended family and friends more often.


The apostle John understood the importance of visiting the people he was called to minister to. He used letters to send messages to the churches, but he recognized this was not a substitute for actually seeing others face-to-face. In 2 John 1:12, he made it clear that sometimes we really need to make a way to visit others in person. To fail to find room for this in our lives is to miss one of the major joys of the Christian life.

Right now, infrequent visits are a fact of life for me. But my hope and prayer is that this won’t always be true. I long to meet some special friends I’ve grown to love and yet never actually had an opportunity to visit with. But until that happens, I choose to rejoice in the few local friends I’m able to have contact with and my circle of online friends. And I never want to forget my “friend who sticks closer than a brother,” the Lord Jesus Christ. 

When the Answer is Delayed: Five Steps for Walking In Faith Through the Wilderness

“There is another side to my wilderness. I am only going through it. I am not camping in the wilderness permanently. I am not settling. I am prepared to keep moving because my God is with me.”  – Rachel Wojo

These words caught my attention immediately this morning, as I opened Rachel Wojo’s Bible study Never Alone to begin my devotional time. Why? Because once again our family is in a wilderness situation.

It’s been a week since my husband, adult daughter and I decided to take some much needed family time and go out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. Since they have handicapped parking right next to the door, I decided to use my walker instead of my wheelchair that usually goes with me on all outings. We enjoyed the meal and the time together, but by the time we left the restaurant I was struggling with shortness of breath and wishing we hadn’t left the wheelchair at home.

I made it to the car, and we started on our way to one final stop before heading home. Suddenly, on one of the busiest streets on our end of Houston, the car abruptly stopped and we were stuck in heavy traffic. After one attempt to get the car into neutral so it could be pushed off the street into a nearby parking lot failed, my husband was finally able to get the gear to shift and some strangers pushed us to safety. Then we waited for a wrecker and a friend we had called to arrive so we would have a way home.

We had been having trouble with our car since having some transmission work done several months earlier, so my husband suspected the problem was transmission related and had the car towed to the transmission shop. But once the mechanics looked at the car, they concluded there was no way to prove the problem was related to their work and therefore they would not cover the repairs under the warranty on their work. So we now had a dead vehicle, our only means of transportation, a budget stretched so thin we were barely covering it monthly, and no way we could come up with to either repair or replace our car. 

What do you do when you face a situation like this? My first reaction was to give place to thoughts of fear and anxiety, but I knew this wasn’t the right response. So my husband and I prayed, turning this situation we saw no way out of over to the Lord. And as of today, that’s where it still is, with no understanding of how God is going to solve this problem.

Many years of walking with the Lord have taught me several things concerning how to walk through a wilderness situation such as this one, when in our own understanding we feel trapped and see no way out. 

  1. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Acknowledging we don’t have an answer but He does is the first necessary step, as we commit the situation to the Lord through prayer.
  2. Recognize our emotions will not always line up immediately with our decision to entrust our situation to the Lord. Therefore, we must make a commitment not to allow our emotions to effect our decision.
  3. Spend time meditating on Scripture. This renews our minds with the truth of God’s Word, which we need to stand upon when fear and doubts come in like a flood.
  4. Keep a grateful heart in the midst of the trial. A graphic of one of my favorite quotes on being thankful hangs in my bedroom, where I see it every morning. It is from Ann Voskamp and says, “There’s always, always, always, something to be thankful for.”  This is a daily reminder for me to look for the evidence of God’s goodness in the midst of every trial and to give him thanks.
  5. Remember what God has done in the past, when He has come through for us in similar situations. This builds our faith that He will meet our current need also.

The last time we were in a similar situation, receiving an answer to our prayers took a lot longer than we expected. God is faithful, but He seldom works on our time table. I’ve walked out these steps during the past week, and I’ll probably need to walk them out many more times in the future, both in this trial and in future ones.  

For now, I’m holding onto God’s promise that this wilderness is not our permanent residence. We are passing through, and with His strength and provision we will make it to the other side. I don’t know what you are facing right now, but these principles provide the keys for each of us to make it to the other side. 

Sometimes He Calms the Storm!


Renewing Our Minds

“In the flood or the fire, You’re with me and You won’t let go.”

I woke up this morning with these words rolling over and over through my mind. I knew they came from a song, but couldn’t even remember which one. A good reminder of how important it is for us to renew our minds daily by reading the Word of God and listening to Scripture-based music. Today, as our family faces a new trial that we have no answer for in ourselves, I’m holding onto this truth that God is with us and He won’t let go.

Asking God’s Direction in My Daily Plans

Lord, what should I do today? This question is a part of my daily prayer time – but this hasn’t always been true.


Two of my favorite Scriptures about seeking wisdom from God make it clear we should seek God for His direction:

  •  “Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.”  (‭‭Psalm‬ ‭25:12‬ ‭NIV)‬‬.
  •  “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”     (‭‭James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

Seeking God’s wisdom and direction in the big decisions of life is essential. Few Christians would disagree with this. But what about the small daily decisions that must be made? What about asking Him to help us in determining what tasks we are to work on today?

Until a couple years ago, I saw no reason to pray for direction concerning my daily activities. I knew what needed to be done, and I would start my day by spending some time in God’s Word and prayer and then get busy working on my current list of tasks needing to be done.

But then my life changed. Instead of just living with osteo-arthritis as a result of a serious auto accident, I began experiencing new health problems every few months. And gradually, my stamina and strength ebbed away. What I could accomplish in a typical day a few years (or sometimes even months) earlier would now put me in bed for several days. Trying to keep up with the daily schedule that had worked earlier in my life was now overwhelming. It became obvious that some changes were needed.

In addition to increasing health problems to deal with, I now had more responsibilities than ever. As the mother of a special needs young adult son, the office manager and bookkeeper for my husband’s home-based video production company, and a blogger, my to-do list was unending. I knew it was time for some changes in how I planned my days.

Some of the things God has taught me in this area are especially fitting for those with the reduced strength and stamina caused by chronic illness, but all of us can benefit from seeking God’s direction before deciding on plans for the day. These are some of the things God has taught me.

  1. With wisdom, a life with chronic illness can still be productive. It doesn’t have to mean accomplishing little or nothing during our days.
  2. Begin every day with time in God’s Word and prayer, asking God if He has something special to show you for this day. This is one thing that has not changed in my daily routine.
  3. One major difference: I now end my devotional time with a simple prayer: Lord, what do You want me to accomplish today? What do I have the physical, emotional and spirtual resources to handle today? I’m learning this is a prayer that God is more than willing to answer.
  4. Recognize some days you will accomplish more than others, and be flexible.
  5. Finally, be sure to make room in your schedule for rest.

My life is still busy. In fact, I am now busier than ever, with added responsibilities as a part of the leadership team for a large ministry to women with chronic illness. But I no longer feel like I have an overwhelmed schedule. I am learning to pray and listen to God, and to take it one day at a time. And whether you live with chronic illness or are blessed with good health, you too can benefit from this lesson. It makes for a much less stressful life!

 

 

Dealing With Vocal Cord Paralysis

I love being able to go to church and sing praises to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained musician and my singing is little more than making “a joyful noise” to the Lord, but singing has always been a real joy in my life. Until this past Sunday.

Easter Sunday, I was grateful to finally be able to attend one of the worship services at our church. This was my first time actually being in a worship service since having extensive neck surgery last July. My husband and I have been going to our Sunday School class, but he was concerned that going to both that and the worship service would be too tiring for me. Then on Easter, Sunday School classes were cancelled and we decided to go to one of the worship services. I was doing fine until I tried to sing.

During my neck surgery, the nerve in my right vocal cord was damaged, and as a result my right vocal cord is now paralyzed. This has caused numerous problems with coughing, projecting my voice and even swallowing, but it seems to be gradually getting better so I was surprised at what happened when I tried to join in the singing. I could get out a few words and then my voice would crack and I couldn’t continue. It quickly became obvious that I would not be doing much singing. So my worship became silent, in my heart.

WHAT IS VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS AND WHAT CAUSES IT? 

Vocal cords are flexible bands of muscle tissue that sit at the entrance to your trachea. You have two vocal cords, which come together and vibrate to make sound when you speak (or sing!). According to Mayo Clinic, vocal cord paralysis occurs when something happens to disrupt the nerve impulses from reaching your voice box (larynx).

One of the main risks factors for vocal cord paralysis is undergoing throat or chest surgery, either from the surgery itself or from prolonged use of a breathing tube during the surgery. I knew of this risk prior to my neck surgery, but my neck was in such bad condition that the pain was debilitating and not doing the surgery came with an even bigger risk, complete paralysis from the neck down. So after much prayer, we made the decision to go ahead with the surgery. In spite of the complications I’ve experienced, I don’t regret this decision. 

Other causes of vocal cord paralysis include certain neurological diseases including Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, viral infections involving the larynx, tumors of the neck, chest or skull, and blunt neck or chest trauma.

SYMPTOMS OF VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS

Shortly after my surgery, I suspected one of my vocal cords had been damaged, because of a chronic cough and hoarseness when I tried to talk. Since then, I’ve learned that several other symptoms I had – and a few I didn’t have – are characteristic of vocal cord paralysis. They fall into three main groups:

  1. Voice changes, including a breathy quality to the voice, prolonged hoarseness, loss of vocal pitch (especially difficulty with high notes when singing), and loss of volume.
  2. Airway problems, such as shortness of breath with exertion, noisy breathing, and ineffective cough.
  3. Swallowing problems, causing choking or coughing when swallowing food, drink, or even saliva, and food sticking in throat.

DIAGNOSIS OF VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS 

My paralyzed vocal cord was diagnosed by my otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor), using a test called a videostrobolaryngoscopy. This uses a special scope that contains a tiny camera at its end, which the doctor inserted through one of my nostrils. By observing the lack of movement on the connected monitor, he was able to determine that my right vocal cord was totally paralyzed. Another test frequently used to diagnose this problem is a laryngoscopy, which uses a mirror or a thin, flexible tube (known as a laryngoscope or endoscope) to observe the vocal cords. Other tests include electromyography of the larynx, and if the cause is not known, sometimes blood work,  X-rays, MRI or CT scans.

TREATMENT AND PROGNOSIS FOR VOCAL CORD PARALYSIS

According to the doctor who diagnosed my vocal cord paralysis, this is a condition that sometimes corrects itself. Nerve damage, the underlying cause, often is reversed with time. Therefore, most doctors wait for a year or more before considering any treatment. My ENT said even if the damaged vocal cord doesn’t heal, sometimes the healthy one will move over and result in a reduction of symptoms. If this doesn’t happen, voice therapy is often prescribed. If your vocal cord paralysis symptoms don’t fully or at least partially recover on their own, there are also several surgical options available.

It has now been nine months since my neck surgery and four and a half months since my diagnosis with a paralyzed right vocal cord. Overall, the symptoms are mangeable and seem to be gradually improving. So I’m coping fairly well with this problem. I’m still hopeful that the damaged nerve will eventually heal and my voice, airway, and swallowing problems will be past. But right now they require using caution and being sure I’m sitting upright when eating or drinking and being careful to not strain my voice. And, as I learned last Sunday, singing may be on my DO NOT ATTEMPT list for a while still. But something positive came out of this Easter Sunday exeperience. 

I’ve loved Ephesians 5: 18-19 for many years, but suddenly these verses took on new meaning. I was reminded that true worship is more than singing. It takes place in the heart, and I had a delightful time of worshiping the Lord on Easter Sunday, even if I couldn’t sing.
       

#Five Minute Friday: Sing

I love being able to go to church and sing praises to the Lord. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a trained musician and my singing is little more than making “a joyful noise” to the Lord, but singing has always been a real joy in my life. Until Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday, I was grateful to finally be able to attend one of the worship services at our church. This was my first time actually being in a service since having extensive neck surgery last July. My husband and I have been going to our Sunday School class, but he felt going to both that and the worship service would be too tiring for me. But on Easter, Sunday School classes were cancelled and we decided to go to one of the worship services. I was doing fine until I tried to sing.

During my neck surgery, the nerve in my right vocal cord was damaged, and as a result it is now paralyzed. This has caused numerous problems with coughing, projecting my voice and even swallowing, but it seems to be getting better so I was surprised at what happened when I tried to join in the worship time. I could get out a few words and then my voice would crack and I couldn’t continue. It quickly became obvious that I would not be doing much singing. So my worship became silent, in my heart.

I’ve loved Ephesians 5: 18-19 for many years, but suddenly these verses took on new meaning. Because of my paralyzed vocal cord, I can not currently sing. But true worship is more than singing. It takes place in the heart, and I had a delightful time of worshiping the Lord on Easter Sunday, even if I couldn’t sing.

Easter Hope: A God Who Understands Suffering

Living with chronic illness is difficult. Having someone you can talk with who understands what it’s like to live with longterm pain, a friend who can say “me too” when you share some of the struggles you are currently dealing with, makes it a little easier.

I’m grateful to be a part of a group of ladies who love Jesus and also know what it is to suffer with chronic pain, exhaustion, and other common symptoms of chronic illness. As we share with and pray for one another, I am encouraged and strengthened. I consider that a blessing from the Lord.

But as I’ve spent this week preparing my heart for the celebration of Easter, one thought has come to mind repeatedly that I consider an even bigger blessing. We have a Lord and Savior who knows what it is to experience pain. A God Who can say, “Me too!”

Isaiah 53:3 (NIV) tells us that Jesus was well acquainted with pain and grief, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Therefore, when we suffer pain and grief, we are not alone. We have an ever-present God and Savior who understands.

As I was doing some research online, looking for a meaningful quote for this article, I came across some quotes from a book by Jon Weece,  entitled Me Too: Experiencing the God Who Understands. Weece speaks of the cross as “God’s ‘me too’ statement to a world saturated with suffering.”

Weece adds, “Pain is the common language of the human experience. Most people I know are fluent in suffering. They speak it, but they don’t understand it. One of the ways people begin to heal is to sit across the table from someone who can say, ‘Me too.'”

Jesus didn’t like suffering any more than we do. He strugged in the Garden of Gethsemane with what laid ahead of Him. There He cried out to His Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark‬ ‭14:34‬a, 36 NIV‬‬)

Jesus’ suffering was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced. In his description of the Garden, Luke adds, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke‬ ‭22:44‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Have you experienced more emotional pain than this?

So why did Jesus go through this suffering in the Garden, just thinking about what was ahead of Him, and then the actual physical suffering leading up to and on the Cross?  He did it because of love. He did it to make a way for us to be restored to the relationship with God that we were created for.

Through Jesus’ suffering, His death on the cross, and His resurrection,  1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Because of Easter, we can have peace with God and hope for the future. And we can also have the comfort of knowing we will never be alone in our suffering. We have a Savior who understands and walks with us through whatever we face.

Have you taken advantage of Jesus’ immeasureable sacrifice? If not, don’t let this Easter go by without accepting the forgiveness of sin His suffering purchased for us. Ask Him to be your personal Savior and Lord. Make the decision to die to sin and live to righteousness. The price has been paid, and the gift is yours if you are willing to accept it for yourself.  

        

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