Our Unfinished Story

How Healing Happens, Part 6

My grandpa was a man of few serious words. Oh, he talked plenty. But his native language was sarcasm in his New York Bronx accent. He would talk seriously about God in church but he wasn’t a man to often share words of wisdom or thoughtful compliments. He called me Lizard and I called him Pal. He belched at the table and paid us to scratch his back after he’d been on his feet cooking up a delicious roast beef dinner for the family.

But one semester I came home from college for Thanksgiving with a broken heart and when I went out to the rotisserie spit where he was roasting the turkeys, he asked how I was, and when I muttered some words about not being okay, he said, “Well, honey, remember that the story hasn’t been finished yet.”

God knew I needed those words.

Pal was right. My story didn’t end with a heart broken by a thoughtless college guy. It didn’t even end when I found the man I married (unlike Hollywood would have us believe). Or when I started living out my dream of serving the church full time. It didn’t end when I became a mom. And it hasn’t ended yet as I struggle through these health issues. God is still at work. And because of Jesus, there’s more to my story than what I talk about with my nurse practitioner.

In his treatise on Christ’s resurrection, Paul wrote this:

If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. 1 Corinthians 15:17-20

God cares about the quality of our life on earth. He created our bodies to heal themselves in amazing ways when given the right tools. He provides a feast for our senses every day in the world around us.

But God cares about so much more. Our hope is not just for this life because Christ did rise from the dead and he is redeeming us body, soul and spirit.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “This is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

This world is fading away, and our bodies with it. We can eat well, exercise, care for our bodies in phenomenal ways, and still one day we’ll die. I may heal completely from my adrenal fatigue and my skin disease. My digestion may recover and my body may grow stronger than it’s ever been. That’s what I’m working towards.

But I know that, as God leads me on this journey to physical health, he is also healing me in my soul and spirit. He’s freeing me from fear. He’s teaching me to control my body’s response to stress. I’m learning self-discipline and a healthy attitude toward caring for my own needs, physical, emotional and spiritual.

And in all this, he’s getting the glory. I’m growing closer to him, and I can share with others about his faithfulness in ways I never could before. God promises to give me a new body. But the character he is refining in me lasts for eternity. It amazes me that he so patiently changes us, little by little, with our cooperation, and at a pace he knows we can handle.

Your story isn’t finished either. If you’re breathing, God isn’t done working in you and through you. What’s your next step toward healing? Is it, maybe, admitting you need God’s restoration in the first place? Recognizing where you might still be held captive? Christ’s freedom is for you. In your body, so you can serve him with all that you have. In your soul, so you can feel and love and dream with all your heart. And in your spirit, so you can walk confidently in God’s grace without shame or fear.

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.

Psalm 103:2-5

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This is Part 6 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

God’s Role and Mine

How Healing Happens, Part 5

A blind man came to Jesus asking for healing. Jesus made mud, put it on his eyes and asked him to go wash it off. A rich ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to go sell all his possessions and follow him. A lame man wanted Jesus to heal his paralyzed legs. Jesus said, “Take up your mat and walk.”

God wants more than our words or our intellectual agreement. He calls us to obey. To move. To say with our actions that we believe in him. “Faith without works is dead,” James tells us in the New Testament.

So why do we sometimes expect our lives to change while we keep on doing the same things and believing the same lies and staying stuck in our defeat? It’s not about percentages. God isn’t saying, “You give 50% and I’ll give 50%.” Actually, he has all the power to say the word and heal us of our pain and diseases, with no action on our part. Sometimes, in the Bible, he does just that. It’s about commitment. Are we genuinely interested in true, deep healing, rather than just wanting a miracle? Because true healing means full dependence on God and surrender to him. It means we have let go of the reins to control our lives and let him lead us. Only then are we really free, and truly healed.

I think of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament times. God had clearly said, “If you obey my commandments, you will be safe and free and well-provided for. If not, you will suffer.” And the nation walked away from him over and over again. God would let their enemies attack them, or drought to come, and they would beg him to forgive them and heal them. So he would. And then they’d turn away again. God patiently let them repeat the cycle for hundreds of years. But he would not let them continue to pretend forever. The miracle was nice. The hero rising up to save the day, defeating the enemy with God’s incredible power backing him. But commitment is hard. And staying committed was never Israel’s strong point.

God spoke through his prophet Isaiah to the nation: “Because you despise what I tell you and trust instead in oppression and lies, calamity will come upon you suddenly—like a bulging wall that bursts and falls. In an instant it will collapse and come crashing down.” He was warning them.

He said, “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said, ‘No, we will get our help from Egypt. They will give us swift horses for riding into battle.’ But the only swiftness you are going to see is the swiftness of your enemies chasing you!”

The nation was being attacked. Their defenses were crumbling. God was calling them to “return and rest” – trust him. But they would not. No commitment. They thought they could save themselves. And God said, “Ok, we’re done.” He opened the door and let their enemies in. For 70 years, they were slaves to another empire. They had made their choice, and he allowed them to suffer for it.

Yet there is still a miracle in all this. God never left them. He faithfully protected them and provided for them in their captivity. And he eventually brought them back home. Read Esther, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah to see his faithfulness to them.

See, back in Isaiah, God didn’t leave the people hanging with threats of punishment. He also said this:

“So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries.Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left. Then you will destroy all your silver idols and your precious gold images. You will throw them out like filthy rags, saying to them, ‘Good riddance!’”

When we come to God, he shows us his love and compassion. He never stops giving it to us, but only when we come to him will he show it off to us. “This is what I’ve been doing while I was waiting for you to come back.” When we ask for his help, genuinely recognizing our need for him, he responds. Not just with an InstaPot miracle, but with steps for action: “This is the way you should go.” He calls himself a Teacher. Jesus was called a Teacher. The Holy Spirit, who lives in us, is our Teacher.

And do you see the results? The nation of Israel would commit to him again, throwing out their idols and turning back to God with their whole hearts.

God wants to lead us. He wants to heal us. We’ve made a mess of ourselves. Life has made a mess of us. But he has action steps for us to take, to prove that yes, we are committed to trusting him, to walking his way. And as we take those steps, he works the miracle.

The nation of Israel still sinned. Individually and collectively. They, as a whole, rejected Jesus when he came as their Messiah. So God’s healing work doesn’t mean that in this world we will ever be perfect. But he is setting us free. Free to walk with him here in this life, abundantly, gratefully, healthily. And ultimately, free from sin and death forever once we leave this earth behind.

We have the opportunity to walk hand in hand with God. To do our part while he does his. I have wrestled with this for months now. Why so much pain and suffering in the world, in my world? I can’t answer that, but I am learning to trust God in the pain. He leads me from one place to the next and when I follow, I grow. When I dig in my heels, I fall, and learn. I believe he has specific, practical steps for every day of our lives and we can choose to walk with him. It’s a journey of healing and redemption, our whole lives long.

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This is Part 5 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

Groundwork for Change

How Healing Happens, Part 4

Over the past year, I’ve read some incredible books about growth. It seems like it should be fairly simple: plant the seeds, water them, and they grow. End of story. And it is that simple. But also not. God has designed a complex world. We know that there are multiple scientific processes the plants goes through in order to grow.

So it is with humans and the process of healing. Changes have to happen for healing to take place. So, you’d think, “Make up your mind and just change. No big deal.” But we are so much more complex than that. I love how intricately God designed us, weaving together our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual selves. We cannot fully heal or grow if one part of us is being held back.

For instance, my adrenal glands (small, hormone-producing organs near your kidneys) had spent so much of their time pumping out cortisol at a breakneck pace to try to manage my stress levels that they finally quit. Mostly. Without functioning adrenals, my energy wasn’t being replenished, I couldn’t handle the stress of everyday life, and my digestion started failing, causing multiple other issues, such as severe skin inflammation.

After discovering this, I started caring for my adrenal glands using supplements, a cortisol replacement, and practicing multiple stress-relieving habits. I’ve been healing, I can tell. But when my stress levels rise, my inflammation still flares (which is a nice way of saying my hands feel like they’re on fire and I want to rip them off). Sometimes I use ointment to help them calm down, but I’ve discovered recently that talking to myself and practicing deep breathing is actually more effective. Outward stress produces a deep inner reaction that triggers a physical overreaction. So complex!

When I try to make a change, I often struggle. Do you relate? I’ve been on a strict diet for 6 months and 99% of the people who ask me about it share how hard it is for them to make a diet or lifestyle change. Me too. I understand. Not many of us are capable of turning our lives around overnight. We have to take small steps to sustain change. Here are some of the principles for growth and change that I’ve been learning.

Do anything. 
Start somewhere. What is the first step we can take? Taking short breaks from foods you’re addicted to? Reading a book tackling your struggle? Scheduling that first appointment with a therapist? Texting a physical therapist friend who might have an idea where you can start? If a sailboat is anchored in harbor, the wind can’t move it. But if it’s sailing, it can be steered this direction or that. If we are stuck, we won’t know where to go. But if we take one step in faith, God can steer us in the direction we should go.

Little by little progress matters
During each of my three pregnancies I knew I was addicted to processed carbohydrates. Crackers, bread, sweets, pancakes, you name it, I craved it and ate it. And after each baby was born I would try to cut out unhealthy carbs. Nothing ever stuck. Once I did pretty well and even lost 20 pounds. Then I got pregnant again and slid backwards. Until recently I would have looked at all those attempts as failure. But they weren’t. They were baby steps. When I was told this summer to go gluten- and dairy-free and then a month later extremely restricted my diet, I was able to make those changes this time. Not because I’m special, but because I’d taken little steps at other times. We have the ability to train our minds and our self-will, but it takes little steps day after day. Nothing is wasted. God rewards our obedience. I might feel like I fail at times but God doesn’t judge me like I judge myself.

Long periods of waiting 
If you tried to plant tulip bulbs in March you wouldn’t have the spring blooms you hoped for. They need the long winter, hidden in the dirt, in order to grow up in the spring. A baby needs 9 months to grow, tucked in the dark womb inside its mother. God built this principle into creation. Growth happens in unseen places while those waiting for it watch in faith. We plant and we water, but God brings the growth, in his own time. Somehow, as we wait for what we hope for, we end up growing, too.

Faith in God’s process
I have always tended to believe that God cares most about our spiritual lives. So it didn’t make sense to me that he wouldn’t just heal me right away since all I wanted to do was spiritual work for his kingdom. But Jesus showed so clearly when he walked this earth that he cared about the physical side of life as well. He was born as a human, for starters, and experienced every need and want that we experience. He healed the sick and raised the dead. And he promises to redeem every piece of creation. So when he leads us to physical actions he wants us to follow in order to heal or change or grow, we can believe that the process is valuable. Trust him in the process.

Pursuing the answers
God doesn’t want us to stay stuck. But he also doesn’t often hand us easy answers. He says, “Seek me and you will find me when you search for me with all your heart.” He’s not like the desperate girlfriend who will do anything to keep her boyfriend with her. God waits patiently for us to pursue him, and when we do, he shows us the way to go. Keep going. Keep poking your nose in and looking for answers. Think and pray through the information you have. Find people to help you. And don’t stop until you have peace that you’re headed the way God’s leading.

Go all in
Since I was a girl, I’ve come back over and over to this prayer: “Here am I, Lord, send me.” The Bible says God is looking for people who are devoted to him. People who say, “Take it all, Lord” and mean it. This sounds so sappy. Such a good girl thing to say. But let me tell you, it is not for wimps. Sometimes I yell at the sky, “God, what the heck? Why is this stupid crap happening to me?” And then I remember how I’ve recommitted myself to him a dozen times. And meant it. And so he’s just doing what I’ve given him permission to do. Living for God is not a walk in the park. He will redeem every piece of you, heart, body and soul and the redeeming process is long. But there is nothing like the freedom he brings. It is definitely worth the cost.

I’m gonna give You my life, my life
As many times does it takes, it takes
And if my heart has to break, to break
Do whatever You need to make
To make me more Yours
– Jason Gray

 

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This is Part 4 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

Knowing Why

How Healing Happens, Part 3

If you have suffered from a long-lasting illness or injury, or a series of illnesses, you know how frustrating it is to do the “right” things over and over again without seeing much improvement. Healing takes time. Doctors like to say this. It should give the patient hope. And sometimes it does. But the process brings up so many unanswerable questions and you really do start to wonder if it’s really worth it.

I was stuck in one of these cycles a few months after my initial diagnosis and my chiropractor challenged me to sit down and evaluate this: What is your Why? Because “to feel better” is not a sustainable motivator when the healing process makes you feel worse before you feel better.

This is true whether you are looking for healing in physical OR mental/emotional areas of life. Whether you are seeing a counselor and processing through your emotional pain, or doing therapy for a muscle injury, or detoxing from food or chemical addictions – in order to heal, you have to re-experience pain. It’s part of the process; God knows why. I’m sure there’s some scientific or spiritual reason that I haven’t researched.

Anyone who is currently on a super-exciting New Year’s resolution-driven cleanse will tell you that they have been swamped with things like brain fog (at which, after typing those words, my brain suddenly fogged over, in case you were wondering), joint pain, skin breakouts, gas and bloating, fatigue, headaches, irritability and extreme food cravings. Oh, boy, sign me up for THAT!

So…in the middle of new or exacerbated issues, we naturally want to give up. We know we need to heal, but this doesn’t feel like healing. More like the opposite of healing. We discover the root of our anger but we’re lashing out more instead of growing kinder. We decided to work on that old knee injury but instead of feeling better the pain has flared worse.

I found a quiet bench in the botanical garden near our home and sat down with my journal. Like the good 21st century Generation X-er that I am, I texted my mom pictures of where I was and what I was doing and that’s probably why I remember my exact location.

Step by step, I answered the questions: What is my calling? Why does my body need to heal to live out that calling?

I’ve been working through the question about my calling for some time now. Going from a place where I could do anything and everything to the verge of adrenal burnout will force you to evaluate a lot of things. What can I do that only I can do? What has he made clear to me? That is what God has called me to. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But why do I need to heal to live out that calling? The answer may seem obvious, but for me it came in layers.

IMG_6326

My greatest passion as an individual is to be fully free. To walk in absolute freedom with Christ – nothing holding me down. And this is my why. At the very root of why I must heal, is the reality that I am still stuck in a jail cell that isn’t letting me be free in Christ. The cell’s name is Fear. Fear of what could happen if something happened to me. Fear of being irreplaceable. Fear of not being able to do all the great things I want to do for God. Fear that maybe those great things are not such big deal to God.

My why, in six steps, because, nerd alert.

  1. I cannot fully speak to the freedom found in Christ if I am bound in any way, even physically (Not that I must be 100% whole to be free but I’m still governed by this physical battle and I have to walk the healing journey to break free.)
  2. I am not able to carry out my roles in my family in my current state of health.
  3. I have no margin to share with or lead others if I am at all consumed by my ill health and being in survival mode.
  4. I do not want to pass on a legacy of bondage.
  5. I am not living a life I love with such sickness and weakness from my insides out.
  6. I must walk in this journey of healing if my soul is to be free and my faith to be strong.

I have to add a disclaimer, to make sure nobody walks away from this thinking I believe that “If you’re not healthy, you can’t be free.” Because I don’t. I believe that God allows people at times to always suffer and not fully heal, and that even with a terminal diagnosis, we can walk in complete freedom in Christ. God can bring peace to help us overcome the pain of any physical sickness.

But for me personally, a chronic hypochondriac afraid of what the world would do without my services, I know I cannot try to walk through life without pursuing healing through the path God shows me. To stay in the state of constant fatigue, horrific skin flareups, complete lack of drive and overwhelming anxiety would mean to stay in spiritual bondage as well. As my team of practitioners and I peel back the layers of health problems in my body, I know God fully intends to peel back the layers of fear and bondage with it all. Because he’s already begun.

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This is Part 3 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

My (Un)Health Journey

How Healing Happens, Part 2

If I could define the first 24 years of my life with a word, it would be: more. I wanted to do more work, make more people happy, accomplish more dreams, save more money, do more research, read more books, get more done for God, speak more truth, get more friends, and ultimately, feel more loved.

I didn’t know any of this, of course. I just knew I could juggle a dozen balls in the air just fine and felt safer, happier and more satisfied the more people I was helping. Somewhere along the line I’d picked up this magical thinking that I could solve the world’s problems, one person at a time. I was the most responsible and reliable person you knew. You could count on me to get a job done, do it right, and make everyone feel good in the process.

Oldest child, teacher’s pet, star employee, but I wasn’t seeking popularity, at least not consciously. I genuinely believe doing my best meant doing more, more, more. Perfection was my goal, from the most sincere desire to get life “right.’ And I longed for people to know they were valued and loved so I gave and gave to them.

My identity was very much defined by the great things I could accomplish for God. I took for granted the way that God saw me, beloved and treasured simply for who I was. Of course he loves me, now let’s get on to the important stuff, like ministry.

In some ways I wonder if that’s what the young Moses was like, in Egypt? Of course God loves me, he rescued me from the Nile and put me in the palace. Now let’s get on to the important stuff, like rescuing the Israelites. And then God sent him to the back woods to tend sheep for 40 years. In my case, my body broke down under stress from the quick succession of college, marriage, ministry and motherhood like a runaway train. He has called me to serve in high stress roles I can’t step down from, with a body that no longer wants to function under stress.

Now as I look back on the last decade or more, I see clearly what God has been doing in me. I feel vulnerable writing this story because the pages are not finished. God is leading me to share my story of my health struggles, but as of right now, I only have a partial diagnosis. My symptoms are still at times unmanageable. And I’m still very much in the middle of healing. In other words, my health journey is not wrapped up in a bow. It’s more like the Christmas gifts I get from my husband, wrapped in a grocery sack and covered in a blanket. Here you go babe, in all its imperfect wrappings, but with lots of love.

But does the lack of shiny paper, a bow and a reindeer to/from sticker diminish the thoughtfulness of the gift inside? Does writing the story without a picture perfect ending subtract from the truth and the connection to be found within it? I’m trusting that God will accomplish what he wants in the middle of this mess.

So here I find myself, in my 30’s, with severe adrenal fatigue, the autoimmune skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis, various deficiencies in hormones and vitamins, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and quite possibly other issues we have yet to unearth. I can see now that the way here was gradual, although I had no idea it was coming. God is writing my story in a way I never dreamed but with a purpose I fully believe is born out of his kindness and wisdom.

Sometimes, secretly, I compare myself with the woman whose hemorrhaging Jesus healed…but on about year 5 1/2, instead of year 12, when he healed her. Currently spending all I have on doctors and suffering a great deal…and I keep saying, “Jesus, where are you? Can I just touch the edge of your garment? I know you could heal me! And then I could get back to doing all these great things for you…” And my voice trails off because I’m starting to think that my addiction to more may be why he’s let me get to this place to begin with. So I wait, and take another dose of supplements, another vitamin D shot, drink more lemon water and breathe deeply. And trust.

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This is Part 2 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

12 Years for Faith to Grow

How Healing Happens, Part 1

Imagine waking every morning for twelve years with symptoms of a chronic internal bleeding disease. You’re wiped out in every way. Sleep doesn’t recharge you, in fact, you barely sleep because of the anxiety that makes your mind spin. Will this new doctor be able to help at all? That is, if he’ll even see you on your limited budget. You’ve already spent everything you have on doctor after doctor with no results. They’ve given up on you and they don’t really care. You’ve been one of their “experiments” and you’ve failed. So here you are. Staring at your breakfast, wondering how much longer you have. Wishing your friends, your family – anyone – understood the fear and the exhaustion wearing down your body along with your disease.

Spiritually, you’ve felt defeated. Does God care you’re suffering? You want to believe he does. But why hasn’t he helped? You’ve heard about a man, a prophet at least, the Messiah at best, who is going around healing people. Lepers, the blind, even the demon-possessed. The faintest hope stirs inside you. Is this Jesus the evidence that God has heard your prayers, and the prayers of your people? Has God started moving again in your world?

People outside your window seem to be gathering into a crowd. That usually means Jesus is around. You’ve never stopped praying for healing through these long twelve years. One of these times, God has to answer you. What is it you can do? The thought of approaching him makes your blood pressure skyrocket. Your palms get sweaty and your breath comes in even shorter gasps than normal. But you want so badly to see if he could help. You’re sick of doctors. You’re sick of being sick. You have no other hope.

“I could try to just touch his robe,” you think. “If he’s from God, that would be enough to heal me.” Nobody else has to know. And if it doesn’t work…your family won’t know to ask any questions.

Heart racing, you put on your veil and leave the house before you lose your nerve. The sun hurts your eyes and walking quickly brings a stab of pain in your side but you bite your lip and push on, holding onto hope. You’re making it through the crowd, and find a spot to squeeze closer to him. He’s a few people ahead of you so you kneel down and slip up behind him to touch the edge of his robe. He’ll never know.

As instantly as you feel the wool touch your fingers, you feel the pain evaporate. Strength pulses through your body and your heart rate slows. Taking a deep breath, you can’t find even a twinge of pain. The harsh sunshine from a moment ago now feels soft and welcoming to your senses. “There’s no way,” you think, starting to shake with the surge of adrenaline your body’s been building.

Suddenly you realize that Jesus is looking for you. “Who touched my robe?” he’s asking. You’re panicking now but the shallow breaths aren’t hurting your lungs. You’ve been healed. How… This is no prophet. You can’t believe you’re doing this, but you have to say something. The miracle was too much. “It’s me,” you say, falling in front of him. “I thought maybe you could heal me, so I touched you. And you did. I’m well.”

And Jesus stoops down and lifts you so kindly by your shoulders. “Your faith. Your faith has made you well, sweet woman. Go in peace. No more anxiety. No more fear. Your suffering is over. You are well. And it was your faith that made you well.” His eyes are so kind. So understanding. Like he knows exactly how you feel and it matters to him. He’s not shaming you. Somehow, he’s healing you in your heart just by saying those few words. All your doubt of God’s goodness – it’s gone and the weight of guilt you were carrying around with it has vanished, too.

Someone else pulls on Jesus and the crowd moves away with him but you stand, staring at his retreating back. You’ve never felt such peace. You’ve never been so sure that God really does see you. And you never want to doubt him again.

What you don’t realize in that moment is that every step along the way that you chose to keep trying, to keep praying, to keep moving toward life instead of death, you were growing in faith. You were making progress. Your body was wracked with pain just like your heart was filled with fear, but you kept going. Little by little you were doing what God called you to do. That last big step of faith, to go look for Jesus, that was just the stretch to the finish line in this leg of your faith journey. If you’d given up with the first diagnosis, or refused to believe that God cared to heal you, you never would have gone to see Jesus. Your faith he referred to wasn’t conjured up in a moment. It had been built over the long horrendous stretch of twelve years when healing seemed impossible. God never forgot about you. He was growing your faith in the dark when you thought he was silent.

Jesus cares about more than your physical wellness, and he cares about more than your faith. You are one – your body, soul and spirit. God has been shaping all of them through the pain you’ve suffered. He could have healed you the day after you were diagnosed, but because he’s so wise, he chose to grow faith in you through the process of pain so that when he did take away your disease, you were so much stronger in every other way.

*This story takes place in Matthew 9:20–22, Mark 5:25–34, Luke 8:43–48.

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This is Part 1 of a 6-part series on How Healing Happens. I’m currently in the middle of a search for a diagnosis and healing solutions for some autoimmune and gut health concerns, and along with that, a journey to freedom. I believe we all have something we need God’s healing for and that Christ has come to set us free. I’m not an expert and I don’t have all the answers. I’m just responding to God’s leading to share what he’s teaching me in the middle of the mess. Thanks for joining me!

A Space to Share Your Story {Tool 27}

God is in the business of healing lives. God cares about our broken state. He redeems and restores. When Jesus walked on earth, he healed so many from their sicknesses and their demons. He had these simple words for those he healed: “Go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you.” It’s become the theme of my own life: this is how God heals me from my brokenness.

None of us are alone in this. We are not all broken in the same way, but none of us is whole without Jesus. And in him, we are made complete. God looks at us and sees us as flawless because of Jesus. What an incredible story we have!

I really believe that this is God’s great commission to us: to tell others our story of how Jesus has saved us. When I tell my story, some will resonate with it and others will not. That’s why it’s imperative that you tell your story as well. That person I could not reach will be drawn to God’s heart from hearing your journey.

We are each unique. Hand-crafted by God. We each have our part in his great story. I will share my story in a way that reflects my design. If I were to copy anyone else’s voice, I’d be robbing the world of my own.

IMG_9466.JPGSo I journal through the depths of my heart and sometimes I share those words for the world to see. I blog. I post online, publicly, for anyone to read. I share a good deal of my life vulnerably with others. But that is not for everyone.

So where is your space? How are you sharing your story of the great things Jesus has done for you? Maybe it is online as well, but in a private space, where only a handful of people read it. There is no shame in sharing with small numbers. Maybe you don’t use technology to share, but rather your kitchen table, or the lunch room at work. Maybe it’s in a letter or email. Perhaps it’s in the way you parent your children, telling the hard parts of your story that have led you to Jesus.

We are all tempted to feel inferior. Like our story doesn’t matter. Maybe we feel too broken. Not perfect enough yet. Our voice feels inadequate. We fear rejection or being laughed at. Maybe we simply feel we don’t have the words to tell our story.

But Jesus is calling us to speak up. To share with one or ten or a hundred people, online, in person, on the phone, with our words, everything God has done for us.

Find your space. Share your story. Even if the world does not admit it, it is longing to hear the good things God has done for you. Your healing matters. God will use it to show us all more of his love.

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I have decided I’m going to close this series a few days early. Thank you so much for joining me in it. My heart is full of things I want to share on the blog so I plan to continue to write this winter. Your support means so much to me. More than anything, I know this is the space God has called me to share my own story with whoever wants to read about God’s kind and generous work. Praise him for his goodness and his wonderful works for all of us!Day 27

Growing Roots in Your Community {Tool 26}

Coming from a girl who grew up on the outskirts of a farm town boasting a population of 180 people, this may not surprise you. I love community. However, finding community is sometimes a challenge. Especially when you’re not in Kansas anymore, so to speak.

I’ve lived in Dubuque, Iowa for 10 years now and it’s finally become home for me. I thought it never would be, but God has been growing contentment in me as I’ve committed to cultivating joy where he’s placed me.

As I’ve let my roots grow down into Iowa soil, I’ve started to discover the gems of my community. Coffee shops I loved, our incredible library, shops that offer delightful gatherings like book signings or knitting clubs. 
IMG_6906Charlotte’s Coffee House I love for its beautiful redesign of an old building. I feel cozy and comfortable just as I step in. They have a lovely deck and everything about the shop is welcoming. Inspire Cafe brings me inspiration (so aptly named!) and a real sense of community. Those are values they live by and it shows in what they do and how they run their business. Jitterz, right on Main Street, is busy and bustling. A favorite spot for my husband and I to grab a chai latte on spontaneous afternoon dates.

River Lights Bookstore hosts book signings and readings, holiday parties and such, all with fun treats and drinks. We have a local Herb Society with free meetings full of amazing food creations. Our public library is always growing in their programming and services and I feel so blessed to have them as a resource nearby. 

To grow in your community, you have to invest part of yourself. Maybe your money, maybe just time, but always your trust. You have to be brave and go by yourself sometimes. You have to sacrifice time you could be doing housework and go to those gatherings. You have to spend an extra few dollars on that locally made salad instead of a burger from the drive through. You have to ask people behind the counter questions beyond surface level.

I’ve been learning the value of repetition. Trying a coffee shop multiple times to see how it grows on you. Putting yourself out there again and again to connect with others. As you give others a chance, you start to see deeper and start to appreciate what they are doing with their lives.

IMG_6599So try a new coffee shop. Look into your local library programs. Get on those email lists from the local Leisure Services or other community organizations and check out different gatherings or activities. Don’t be afraid of what others will think. If we give our communities a chance, we’ll gain room to grow and find a home in what may otherwise be a lonely world. Appreciate your community and find your small (or large) way to be involved.

We are given this world as a gift. A place to belong in our earthly bodies. It’s not just a place to get by in until we reach heaven. God said it was good when he created it. So let’s find more ways to settle in and enjoy the gifts he gives in places like our local communities.

Evaluating Social Media {Tool 25}

I could title this blog post: Preaching to the Choir. Only I’m not going to preach. I’m just going to share my struggle and what I’ve learned and hope it encourages you, while reminding me what is true.

One of the worst things keeping me in survival mode is the desire to escape reality. It feels so good to zone out of life. Pretend the pile of dishes on the counter or the three screeching children don’t exist, just for the next 5 minutes while I scroll through Facebook.

But escaping reality traps us in a world that doesn’t really matter, where nothing phenomenal is accomplished. And it truly only hurts us. I’ve tried numbing my feelings by escaping for a long time. I still do it. But when we numb the hard, and when we give in to self-indulgence, we lose the joy of accomplishment and ultimately numb the joyful emotions as well.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself for your “why” behind your social media usage? Honestly asked yourself what your purpose in using social media is? Maybe it’s not an escape for you, but it’s because you like to compare yourself to others. Or maybe you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t get on.

For me, I stay on Facebook because I genuinely do like connecting with people. So when I’m tempted to just aimlessly scroll through, I remind myself of my purpose, and try to actually interact with others. At least in a perfect world, I’d do this. But having this as a goal helps me do better at times.

IMG_2130I’ve tried so many different methods of breaking my addiction to social media. I sometimes delete the apps off my phone. This I find works for me if I have a set time that I plan to reinstall them. Otherwise I find myself reinstalling them before I’ve actually had much of a break. Currently I’ve unfollowed everyone from Instagram except for people I know in person and a handful of others. That was 400+ authors, designers, public personalities, etc, I unfollowed to give me less options for long stretches of scrolling. I stay on Instagram to share my heart and have an online presence but also because I genuinely love seeing into other people’s lives and stories.

There are ways to cut back. There are ways to help you remember what is important. I heard once that you get a surge of dopamine to your brain when you view social media. The person saying it mentioned that she’d rather get dopamine from things that matter, like watching her children’s faces, holding her spouse’s hand, feeling the fresh sunshine on her face. And I agree.

So what’s our purpose on social media? It is taking up more time than it should be? Is it distracting us from reality? How can we reign it in? How can we focus on what matters most? Is it helping or hurting our journey to freedom? How can we let it go?

Resources:
Book – Hands Free Life  by Rachel Macy Stafford
Blog post – How to have a Social Media Free Weekend Cultivate What Matters

Build Your Team {Tool 24}

We can go this life alone. But it’s a lot longer and harder. American culture has done humanity a disservice in telling us that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and make things happen on our own. We’ve learned that somehow asking for help makes us weak, and deeper still, that weakness is a problem.

But God expects us to be weak. And he wants us to even – dare I say it this way – celebrate our weakness. In weakness we are drawn toward humility. When I feel strong, I don’t think I need God or others to support me. But when I am lost and have nowhere to turn, the only way out is to let go of my pride and admit my need. That is humility.

Can we be humble when we are doing well? Yes. But not unless we are cultivating a spirit of gratitude and dependence on others and a willingness to serve.

A valuable gift that’s come out of the seasons of weakness I’ve walked through has been the realization that although Satan wants to isolate me, I am never truly alone. I’ve learned to build my team and then when I feel that loneliness creeping up on me, to call my people and connect.

not alone working together love community elizabeth cravillionIn weakness we learn to lean on God and somehow other people see that, even when we don’t say much about it. I’m always amazed at what people see in my life when I thought I was struggling in silence. God shows himself off when we are trusting in him.

But we do have to actually work to build a team of people around us. Simply showing up at church or play group doesn’t ensure we’ll make connections. There have been seasons where I have been more alone than I am now. And I hated it so much that I chose to start the work. Every person’s team will look different. An introvert will have fewer close friends. An extrovert may need more people to reach out to, both deep and surface level friendships. Someone in relatively good health won’t need many practitioners to rely on. Someone on a healing journey, like myself, may need a variety of them.

What kind of people make up these teams? All kinds.

Friends, I’ve found, meet different needs in different seasons. We need friends with a variety of spiritual gifts. We should connect with people who are similar to us and can understand us but also people who are different from us and can sharpen or smooth us as we need it. Some of my friends are generous servants who I call when I need help with my dishes or my children. Some are full of spiritual wisdom and I call them when I am inwardly struggling. My mom friends relate to my parenting struggles but I appreciate friends who aren’t moms, too, to remind me of other valuable aspects of life. And there’s the friend or two who bring out the fun and sarcastic side of me.

Health practitioners are another valuable team. I am so thankful to be living in a city where I can find a variety of people and services, but with today’s online community, long distance services are more available than we may realize. I haven’t written extensively about my health journey as of yet but on my team I have a good nutritionist, chiropractor, holistic nurse practitioner, massage therapist, mental health counselor, and friends who are physical therapists and trainers. I’ve tried a lot of different avenues to move toward full physical health and so appreciate each person on this team that helps me when I’m physically or mentally struggling. Some of them are Christ-followers as well and that is a double blessing.

It’s not impossible to find people to help you. It can be hard. I’ve been praying and looking for people over the past five years to help fill some of the places I’ve needed filled. God has provided each friend, doctor, therapist, etc, just at the right time and way. Sometimes I’ve had to be bold and ask for help, or offer things like trading babysitting, to start connecting deeply. Sometimes we’ve had to ask for discounts on services and found practitioners to be generous and willing to help. God provides, in one way or another, in his time.

We are not alone. When we do feel alone, we need to run to God and sit in his presence, whether he feels close or not. And we need to turn to the people, the physical hands and feet and faces he’s given us, who can remind us of what really matters.