I am not a skilled gardener, but with each new growing season I invest a bit more time to educate myself about the process. I’ve begun to study which plants grow well in certain zones (which began with me actually figuring out what growing zone I live in). I’ve actually begun to read and heed the instructions on each packet of seed. I’ve attended online seminars to learn about the pests that are prevalent in my area and have been equipped with strategies to control them and stop their growth. I’ve learned about compost and other natural ingredients that feed and build up the soil. But most importantly, I have learned that the only way to have a successful garden that yields growth and a harvest is to actually spend time in the garden working and nourishing it.

Continue reading “Growth”

How to Know God’s Will for My Life (Part 1)

One of the greatest struggles that we experience as Christians is discerning what the Lord’s will is for our lives.   Oh, if He only left a personalized note, an audible message, or wrote His words using a skywriter or a billboard – how much easier it would be.  But alas, God does not communicate with us via those avenues, but thankfully, He does indeed speak to us, and rest assured, if we are willing to wait, follow, and listen, He will show us His will.

Continue reading “How to Know God’s Will for My Life (Part 1)”

Experiencing Peace In Times of Uncertainty

Life is uncertain.  Changes and challenges often rattle us to the core with little or no forewarning.  Sickness.  Brokenness.  Rebellion.   They’ve all stepped over the welcome mat and entered into our lives as uninvited guests.  They provoke us to fear and anger, bring disappointment and doubt, and cause us to fret and worry.  Can there truly be a sense of peace and calmness amidst the storms and trials of this life?

A few weeks ago I felt prompted to make an appointment with a cardiologist.  With such a long-standing bout of Lyme Disease and the full knowledge of its potential effects on one’s heart, I felt the need to get a baseline reading on my heart health.  It’s funny, sickness and testing are not foreign to me.  I’ve never experienced true stress and anxiety at the doctor’s office or during testing.  However, this all changed the very moment that I opened the door to the cardiologist’s office.  I was overcome with such a sense of panic, like none I had ever experienced before.  And, if you didn’t realize, there is absolutely no way to mask or hide anxiety at the cardiologist.  After my initial visit, the doctor arranged for a whole host of tests to be completed over the course of the next several weeks.  One by one I completed the tests, all coming back as normal.  The last of the tests was scheduled to be completed at the doctor’s office.  This last test did not produce such stellar results.  The doctor speculated as to the cause and requested further testing.

This normally strong woman simply fell apart as she left the office.   I emerged back home a blubbering mess.  For the remainder of the day I felt such a cloud of darkness hovering over me as the tears flowed.  I didn’t pray.  I didn’t open God’s Word.  I didn’t recall the many verses I knew.  I didn’t remember God’s goodness.  Instead I chose to question, doubt, and allow the seeds of anger to spring to life.

The next day the doctor’s office called asking me to come in again for additional testing in a few days.  Once again fear enveloped me and held on with an intense grip.  Realizing my weakness, I reached out to a few friends asking them to pray for me.

With a few days to wait for my testing, the Lord laid these thoughts on my heart.  I’ll call them  “The Six R’s of Resting in God When Life is Uncertain,” and they have served as a good reminder to me.

  • Remember
    • Remember the many promises of God.  Call to mind the portions of scripture that you have hidden in your heart for moments such as this.  Rehearse them.  Recite them.  Reflect on them.  Repeat again and again.   Our God is a promise keeper.  He is unable to do anything less than keep the promises  that fill His Word.  Here are but a few:
  • Reach 
    • Reach out to the Lord immediately without delay.  He knows our troubles before we ourselves do.  He is concerned for us.  He is near to us.  We need only to call out to Him.  Push aside all the other voices of fear, doubt, and anxiety and come before the throne of the Lord.
      • The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Psalm 34:18
    • Reach for His Word.  Read the familiar promises in His Word, but delve further into the scriptures to uncover new truths and promises that may have previously gone unnoticed.  Pray that the Lord would open up His Word to you in new and exciting and comforting ways.
    • Reach for trusted friends.  Be honest.  Take down the facade of strength and ask for faithful friends to uphold you in prayer.  Tell them in what ways you are struggling.  Share specific requests.  Set aside pride and ask for prayer.
      • For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. ” I Peter 3:12
  • Release
    • We are all human with God-given emotions.  Our initial response to hardship is not to celebrate.  If you are anything like me, I need to let out one really good and hefty cry.   God understands our frame; He knows our weakness.  Cry out to Him not in anger or frustration but as a child coming to their parent for comfort.  I literally envision the arms of the Lord wrapped around me.
      • For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”  Hebrews 4:15
  • Reflect
    • Think back and remember all that the Lord has already done for you.  Look back to past valleys and see how the Lord has walked with you through those times.  Remember His faithfulness.  Remember His strength.  Remember His goodness.  Let memories flood your mind.  I often marvel at how the Israelites second guessed God and His power.  They had gazed upon miracles with their own eyes, yet they doubted God.  In my own moments of weakness, I’ve realized how easy it is to forget what God has done.  His work at times can become a distant memory.  Bring them to the forefront of your mind.  Remember and reflect on all that He has done.  He has been faithful and will continue to be.
  • Resist
    • The evil one would like nothing more than to fill your heart with doubt, depression, and despair.  We leave these doors wide open when we turn away from our Lord during challenging times.   The moment we divert our eyes from our Father, the devil will be quick to catch our gaze and to fill our hearts and minds with blatant lies.  We will question the goodness of God, doubt His love, and question His sovereignty.
      • Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  James 4:7
  • Rest
    • Find rest and peace in the Lord.  He alone is in control.  He alone is sovereign.  He alone cares for His children as no other could.  Hand this over to Him.
      • You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3 
      •  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7 
      • “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

So, can there indeed be peace in the midst of the storms and trials of life?  Without God, peace will be elusive.  But with God, all things are possible.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Spaghetti squash is one of my very favorite vegetables.  It is incredibly versatile and a great way to enjoy a spaghetti-like meal without the carb overload.   So last year I tucked a few seeds away and planned to plant them in the garden this summer.  My son and I did just that, and we’ve enjoyed watching that plant grow and grow and GROW!  It has spilled over the garden bed and fence and onto the driveway.  It has literally taken over the side of my house, as squash plants tend to do.  It’s beautiful, lush, and full of blossoms.

The other day my neighbor commented on the abundance and beauty of those yellow blossoms.  “You must have so many squash growing in that patch,” she said.

“Not one,” I lamented.

As beautiful and lush and full of blossoms as that patch is to the casual observer, there is something that has gone terribly wrong, for not one squash has emerged.   After doing a bit of detective work and research, I discovered that there is likely a problem with pollination.  It seems that the local bees are not doing their job.  Hmph!  So the likelihood of our family enjoying spaghetti squash from our own garden is slim to none.

Of late I’ve been tempted to yank the entire plant out of the garden.  It is simply taking up too much space and serves little use other than giving the false impression that my garden is flourishing and thriving.  It bears no fruit and has little benefit aside from its outer beauty.

Then there are my green bean plants.  I’ve lost count as to how many bowls full of beans we have picked and eaten.  The eight or so plants that I have continue to produce a healthy, useful harvest every week.  If you were to take a closer look at these plants, you would see plants that are far from lush and beautiful, and to the casual observer, one might assume that these plants are not producing fruit.  There are small weeds scattered about, yellowing leaves, dry brown parts, thinness, and evidence of damage from insects.   Beauty is certainly lacking.

Yet, when you stoop down and take the time to push aside the leaves and stems and weeds of these plants, when time is taken to look below the surface,  a treasure trove of beans awaits.  These plants, though outwardly not as attractive as my billowing spaghetti squash vine, have yielded much fruit.  Even though one would assume that a beautiful plant would yield a beautiful crop and a homely plant would yield sub par fruit, these plants have shown me otherwise.

Outward appearances can certainly be deceiving.

I suppose this applies to our world today.  How quick we can be to make determinations and judgements about people based solely upon what we see on the surface.  We often take little to no time to actually look past what we see. We assign good qualities to those with beauty and poor qualities to those with a humble or even rough appearance.  Superficiality is the name of the game in our society.

The Lord reminds us that the only way to truly know someone for who they are is by the fruit that they bear.   Appearances are of no value to Him, but the heart is.   In the busyness and craziness of life, we often leave little time to look at people at the heart level.

I’m thankful for the little reminders that the Lord sends to me through my little garden.

Are You Willing to Let the Lord Write Your Child’s Testimony?

As parents it is natural to contemplate what paths our children will take.  We look at their strengths and weaknesses and speculate what the future will hold.  We imagine how their lives will unfold.  We hope for smooth sailing, straight roads, and few bumps along the way.  We pray for health and success, safety and provision, triumphs and victories.  Down deep, we hope for ease and often pray for it expecting God to work within our pre-approved framework. Continue reading “Are You Willing to Let the Lord Write Your Child’s Testimony?”

Letting Down Your Guard

Yesterday morning my 14 year old son came down stairs visibly flustered.  “There’s a tick stuck in me.”  I squinted and strained my eyes to try and decipher what I was actually looking at.  This was a speck, no bigger than a grain of sand or the tip of a pin;  it could easily be mistaken for an ordinary skin mole or a fleck of dirt.  After several minutes I concluded that this little dot was indeed a tick embedded in his shoulder.

Me.  My kids.  We have a history with ticks.

The ironic part of this episode was that just two days earlier I was speaking to a friend telling her that I felt so fortunate that I have never had to pull embedded ticks out of my children.  “The Lord must know that I would not be able to handle it;  He must know that I would get a little crazy.”  Well, fast forward to today.  One child, one embedded tick.  Oh, the irony.

Lyme Disease has just become part of our lives.  It’s what our family lives with.  We’ve become careful and always take precautions.  We have our little routine; we have a dress code when outdoors.  We still camp; we still hike; we still live.  We have our guard up, and in doing so, we have managed to remain tick free.  We’ve protected ourselves and remained vigilant.  But not this time.

I spent nearly an hour trying to gently remove that tick.  Try as I may I could not extricate that little bugger from my son’s shoulder.  Knowing when to stop, I called the doctor and asked them to make room on the schedule for us.  They did.  As we were driving to the office, my son confessed:

“Mom, I was rolling around in the grass yesterday.  I was in shorts and a tank top.  I didn’t change my clothes when I came in.  I didn’t shower.  I didn’t have you check me out.”

That was one of those situations as a parent where not much else needed to be said.  He knew he had dropped the ball on this one.  He had ignored everything that he knew he should do: dress appropriately, change immediately, shower, and get a tick check.

I know, I know.  You’re probably thinking:  “Relax, lady!  The kid was just rolling in the grass.”

Well, we live in tick-central.   Sometimes rolling in the grass is not so cut and dry.  Knowing this, we keep up our guard and are diligent with what we know we should do.  And, when we follow the “protocol”, we can not only have fun, and, yes, roll in the grass, but we can remain safe while doing it.

The problem occurs when we let our guard down, when we don’t do what we know we should.

It’s pretty easy to let our guard down in everyday life.  How simple it is to sidestep doing what we know we should.  We grow tired of the routine.  We feel bogged down.  We want to scream, “I just want to live without having to do this or that.” And then when something unfortunate happens, we want to kick ourselves because we dropped the ball.

Today’s little episode immediately took my mind to this verse:

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Have you ever watched one of those nature shows where they track a hunting lion.  Hunting lions are rather patient.  They wait for just the right time to pounce.  They scope out their prey and observe.  They watch for that one split second when their guard is let down, and then they seize the moment, and go in for the kill.

That’s kind of what happens when we let our guard down.  It only takes a moment of weakness for things to go horribly wrong.  It takes a tiny little crack in the door for someone to gain a foothold and bring the whole door down.  Satan waits like that patient lion.  He waits for just the right opportunity to bring us down.  He waits for the moment of weakness.  He waits for us to let down our guard, and then he latches on.  That ultra, microscopic tick was the perfect picture of this.

As I walked outside with my husband this morning, I paused and stared.

“What are you looking at?”, he asked.

“The grass,”  I answered.  “Underneath that beautiful green blanket likely hides millions of ticks on our lawn, their lawn, that lawn…everyone’s lawn  There’s really no way to avoid them.  We’ve got to live with them and keep up our guard.”

While it’s too hot to require my kids to play outside in a full snowsuit, or wear a wet suit to romp around in the yard, or dress in a full coat of armor, I am reminded that there is one coat of armor I am told to dress in everyday.  It is to protect me and remind me to be prepared and be on guard.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Ephesians 6:10-18

So keep up your guard….and check your kids for ticks too!

Lessons from a Lymie!

Before we start today, let me toss out my little disclaimer:  The information found here is not a substitute for medical care.  You should always consult a qualified physician regarding any of your healthcare concerns.

Thank you for reading last week’s posts regarding my experience with Lyme Disease.   I can’t begin to tell you how good it was for my husband and me to read through them together.  There’s no doubt that we went through quite a lot, but we can see how the Lord was working during this time.  Sometimes it is hard to see that when you are in the midst of what seems to be a mess.

Today I hope to encourage you to be an advocate and fighter.  It doesn’t matter if you are struggling with Lyme Disease, cancer, or MS, you need to stand up for yourself and your loved ones.  You must educate yourself.  You must be a rock turner.   You must have a voice, and at times, a loud one.   Put fear aside.  Throw worry out the door, and stand up for yourself.

There is really no rhyme or reason to my post; it’s just a collection of thoughts.  Here goes:

1.   You Know Yourself Best

You know when you are not feeling like yourself.  You know when something is “off” or if you feel ill.  There is no one on the outside who can tell you how you are feeling on the inside.  That will only come from you.  Should a physician or two or three tell you there is nothing wrong, find someone new.  Find someone who will truly listen to you.  Find an advocate.  The list of doctors that I visited was rather long, but I finally did find one who helped.  It took some time.  Be persistent and do not give up!

2.  Early Detection + Early Treatment = Good Prognosis

With regards to Lyme Disease, early detection and prompt treatment are key.  This may be the area that frustrates me the most.  Time is of the essence.  If Lyme is treated early, most people’s symptoms resolve themselves, health is regained, and your Lyme story becomes a boring one (this is good).  The longer that Lyme is allowed to fester, the deeper it burrows into the body, the worse the symptoms get and the harder it becomes to eradicate.

The responsibility for prompt treatment is two-fold.  First, you must not ignore what your body is telling you.  Obviously, if you see a tick embedded in your skin or if a bull’s-eye rash is visible, get tested. and possibly treated.  Do not wait.  If there is no sign of a tick bite or any evidence of a rash, yet you are feeling flu-like, rundown, tired, achy, and just lousy, go to the doctor and get tested.  Demand a test.  We all feel discomfort for a reason; our bodies are telling us that something is wrong.  Do not ignore what your body is saying.

The other part of the equation falls on the medical community.  I warn you; there are physicians, not all, but some, who do not find Lyme to be a legitimate problem.  Here is my oldest son’s experience:

My son was at a friend’s house romping in the river.  A few days later we saw what appeared to be ringworm.  I took him to the pediatrician, and he agreed; it was ringworm.  We were given a topical treatment, however, within a few days the spot on his leg was growing and looking rather “angry”.  I took him back to the pediatrician who said that he still believed it to be ringworm.  He gave me a new medication.  Within a few days, the leg was worse and now my son was running a low-grade fever.  I returned to the doctor and told him that I thought it was a tick bit.  His response?  Nope.  It couldn’t be a tick bite.  He even brought in another pediatrician and her conclusion was the same.  I looked at them both and flat-out told them that I thought they were wrong (by the way, this will always earn you brownie points with a doctor, sarcasm added) and that it was indeed a tick bite.  They sent me to a dermatologist who took one look at my son’s leg and exclaimed that it looked like a tick bite. She ran a few tests for ringworm.  They were all negative.  She immediately wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic.  She explained to me that she was a mother as well, and this would be exactly what she would do for her children.  We followed up with the pediatrician who was livid that the dermatologist had put my son on antibiotics.  I remember looking at him rather dumbfounded.  We live in an endemic area; why was he refusing to even think that Lyme was a possibility?  I still don’t know the answer because we don’t go to that pediatrician anymore.

Some doctors are more educated than others about Lyme.  Search them out.

3.  Testing and Interpretation

Testing for Lyme Disease is highly unreliable.  Over the course of fourteen years, I must have had nearly fifteen tests for Lyme and its coinfections.  All but one, the last one, came back negative.  Standard lab tests yield false positives and false negatives.  There are several different labs that offer higher level, more accurate tests.  They tend to be expensive and are often not covered by insurance.  Ultimately, I found it necessary to seek out these alternative labs, but I did so only through the recommendation of a trusted medical physician.  I would not seek out these labs on your own because there are some out there that are simply looking for your money.

Most testing results are focused on what are called bands.  The CDC has set the standard for what is deemed a positive test result.  A certain number of positive bands are required.  Most doctors will use these parameters.  I’ve always had concern in this area.  If five of ten bands are needed for a positive result, what happens when someone has four bands?  In my mind, four bands shows me exposure, significant exposure.  Do we simply wait to see if the fifth band will pop up down the road?  I just think this is dangerous medicine because again, time is important.  There are other doctors who are not so concerned about the number of positive bands but instead which bands are positive.  Research has shown that specific bands (which are numbered) are telltale markers of a tick-borne infection.  I know that my doctor is more concerned about the specific positive bands.  She takes this information and matches it up with a patient’s symptoms to make a diagnosis.

4.  Treatment

In dealing with Lyme within our family, our first, preferred method of treatment was oral antibiotics.  For some whose Lyme was caught early, this course of action was sufficient and effective.  Again, this is why early detection and treatment is vital.  In my case, however, antibiotics alone were not effective.  I had had Lyme for so long, the chance of eradicating it completely was slim to none, not impossible, but certainly difficult.  Many opt to treat themselves with long-term oral or IV antibiotics.  For some this is effective.  Others prefer to treat themselves through homeopathy and herbal remedies.  There is a whole host of other treatment options.  Some are legitimate; some are not.  Some are safe, and some are not.  Here is where you will need to do your most research.  I would recommend not rushing into anything.  Not all treatments are effective for all people.

5.  Eat Well

Sugar feeds disease.  It becomes the fuel that allows it to thrive.  It weakens your immune system.  Clean out your diet.  Get rid of the sugar.  Get rid of the processed foods.  Stay away from artificial ingredients and chemicals.  Begin to nourish your body through whole foods like quality protein, fresh vegetables (organic if you are able), low glycemic fruits, and plenty of water.  Limit your carbohydrates.  Eat a rainbow of colors, especially nutrient dense leafy greens.  Eating well will only help you.  A poor diet is certain to weaken your body further.

6.  Prevention

There are some very basic things that you can do to lessen the likelihood of a tick bite:

  • When spending time in wooded areas, dress appropriately.  Wear pants.  Tuck the bottoms of your pants into your socks.  It’s not terribly fashion forward but so what!  Wear lightweight, long sleeves.  Wear a hat or cap and closed toe shoes.  You don’t have to wear full body armor, but do use common sense.  I cringe every time I am hiking and see people in the woods in shorts.  I’ll just come out and say it:  that’s just plain stupid!
  • If you are able, opt to stay on paths and avoid hiking in dense, wooded areas.
  • Shower immediately when returning from time in the woods or other high risk areas.
  • Put your dirty clothes in the wash immediately.
  • Have someone give you a tick check. Don’t forget to check your hair.
  • Always check your children for ticks.  Some ticks are as small as a poppy seed.  You must look carefully.
  • Some people use tick specific bug spray.
  • Don’t assume that it is too cold for ticks to be present.  The threat of a tick bite is present during all seasons.

7.  Share and Ask for Help

Here is the area where I made some of my biggest mistakes.  I kept my Lyme to myself.  For years I told no one.  I wanted to press on as if nothing was wrong.  I went to church, led up our co-op, and continued to live life as normal.  When I went out I would try to make everything appear normal.  I bet there are a few of you who know me, who had absolutely no clue what was going on with me.  How could you?  I never said anything.  Why did I do that?  It’s a simple one word answer.  Pride.  I have always been a self-sufficient person.  Asking for help is not a strength of mine.  Looking back I realize that help would have really been beneficial.

Also in not telling people, I didn’t have any prayer support.  Now that was really dumb on my part!  Why in the world wouldn’t I want that?  After my trouble in Williamsburg, I finally told one of the pastors at my church that I needed prayer.  I explained that I needed a respite and that I needed people to really pray for me.  Guess what?  They did, and I could tell.

Don’t keep your troubles to yourself.  There are people who are willing to help out, but they won’t know your needs until you tell them.  My name still remains in our prayer bulletin at church, along with a growing list of others dealing with Lyme.  There have been times that I have thought about having my name taken off the list because I am feeling markedly better.  That is a momentary thought; then I realize how silly it would be to do that.  I still need people to hold me up in prayer!

8.  Faith

I honestly have no idea how in the world my husband and I would have survived this experience had it not been for our faith in the Lord and our relationship with Him.  I can’t say that we completely understood the Lord’s purpose in it all, but we firmly believed that nothing befalls us unless the Lord has a purpose in it.

Some of you might ask, “What kind of God is that, that would allow you to go through what you did.  That’s not love; that’s cruelty.”  I would wholeheartedly disagree.  I have found that it is through the most difficult times in life, that the most growth happens.

I learned some very valuable lessons through my Lyme Disease that otherwise I may have never learned.  I not only learned, but saw the hand of the Lord direct us, answer prayer, and provide for us.  I realized how deep seeded my pride was.  I also saw what a gem my husband is.  I knew he was just the right guy for me, but that was really hammered home during this time.  There are some men who would have jumped ship.  He stood strong.  I always tell him that he has had to live out his marriage vows.  “For richer or for poorer”….well we’re living for “poorer”.  “In sickness and in health”….we’ve spent most of our nearly eighteen years of marriage in sickness (I just realized that).  “Til’ death do us part”…well, we came kind of close to the death part.

God is good in all situations.

This concludes my public service announcement regarding Lyme Disease!  In all seriousness, the discussion regarding Lyme should never end; there are just too many people sick for that to happen.  I would hope that funding for research would increase and that answers would be had.

I will continue to add Lyme specific posts from time to time.  Thanks for reading!