The seven-year-old girl eyed the pictures hanging up in the Sunday School room, skeptical. She climbed the stairs with everyone else and found her mom. “Mom,” she declared, “I don’t know if I believe in this Jesus stuff. It seems too good to be true.” Standing in the lobby of the church, the girl’s mother was taken aback. “But, sweetie, you can’t go to heaven and see Grandma unless you believe in Jesus!” The girl was surprised by her mother’s reaction, and scared she wouldn’t get to go to heaven and see her great-grandma, whose was the only funeral she’d attended. That evening, the girl had a very serious talk with her two little sisters. “And so,” she concluded, “you have to believe in Jesus, or you won’t get to go to heaven.”
Looking back at my life, I only see the grace of God in so many ways. Too many to count, really. Like the time I had suicidal thoughts, but my sister told me conversationally how much she heard it hurt. That people would call 911 after they overdosed just to get their stomach pumped and some relief. I was afraid of pain. Or this other time, when I went to grab something on the floor of my car, and I went into the ditch. I looked up and was headed straight for a telephone pole. There is no other explanation how I safely got back on the road with only a dent in the borrowed minivan I drove.
At night when I can’t sleep, I sing “How Great is Thy Faithfulness.” If that doesn’t work, I transition to “How Great Thou Art.” I can’t not see the mercies my heavenly father pours out on me. Like when I was headed back to the parking lot in my electric cart, unsure how I’d have the energy to unload groceries into my car. God would send somebody, who was just walking by, to help. Or when I was walking with my walker and reached the end of my rope before I could even get it back in my car. A little help here, God? Well, the lady that had just walked by me turned around to see if I needed help. So many times, I have seen the tangible provision of God. Now, I am in a unique position with my physical disabilities. People walk by me and can sense I might need help. They check, even if unsure. What about the people that look perfectly normal on the outside? Do they receive tangible help, too? The answer is YES. Undoubtedly.
God’s mercies are new and exciting each and every morning. I have verses and promises of God plastered all over my bathroom walls. “I, Anna, have received an unction from the Holy Spirit within me that will reveal, teach, and show me ALL the things pertaining to my life and that which I need to know.” And again, “I am who the Bible says I am, can do what the Bible says I can do, and I will have what the Bible says I can have. And I establish this.” One more of my favorites, “I trust with childlike faith my heavenly father, even though I may temporarily not know all the details and mercies God has set in motion on my behalf!” Thank you, Sallie, for these words I could handwrite on notecards and hang in my bathroom!
Like everyone, I have my down days, weeks, whatever. In these times I wallow in self-pity and refuse to read or even remember God’s promises. But every time, when I come back, God is just like a loving parent. “You done now?” He seems to ask me with a hint of a smile. “Yeah, yeah,” I admit. “You are always good.” And really, once my pity party is over, I’m reminded of the goodness and faithfulness of my Good, Good Father.
We all have so many testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness. If you are a child of God, you have a story somewhere. Can I hear some of your best?
The new year came, then passed like any ordinary day. All this talk about planning what you’re going to do this year? No thanks. I’ll just take the year and be surprised at what comes my way. That’ll work, right? (Insert wince face here….)
A list of things to do in the year is intimidating. Most people’s lists consist of things like “get more organized” and “lose weight.” Ahh! Too big of things! (And then we get upset when the list isn’t completed by February!?)
On the 3rd, God told me the word “restoration” through a friend. “Healing and restoration are two different things. You’ve been healed, now you just need to wait for your restoration,” Lora told me.
“Hang it up on your bathroom mirror, and every morning, thank God for your restoration!” my friend Gary told me. I had been thanking God for years for my healing (not always consistently) before I was healed. But now, I just need to thank Him for my restoration.
And then, on the 5th, I read this blog by my friend Chelsea. In it, she talks about how she asked God what she should focus on in 2018. Ask God…I felt a nudge. I printed out the worksheet she had made to assist others in praying about 2018, and I sat down with my journal to hang out with Jesus. Here are the points He told me to focus on this year:
Building myself up
Pray for others
Then, I went back to each point and asked God more about each.
Patience/Waiting. Doug and I are planning on adopting kid #2, but we can’t even take classes until next August or September. We made this decision last October. At first, I didn’t even realize we’d be able to take the classes at all, but it made me feel a whole lot better knowing when we’ll have time to do so. Second is waiting for my body’s restoration. I know it’ll come; I just have to wait for it. And in all this waiting, I can pray. For the things I’m waiting for, as well as things I don’t even know about yet. I asked God if either of those things would come to be this calendar year. He told me that I’ll just have to wait and see.
Building up my confidence, more specifically. Over this last year, I have been a mom, a wife, and a manager of my household. All these things are good, yes, but I’ve kind of buried the Anna. I’m still involved in Bible studies, mom’s groups, and the spouses of med students organization, but. But what about the things I love doing? Writing fiction? Actually developmental editing somebody else’s work, like I took classes last spring to do? Goodness, I don’t even play piano as much anymore. I thought giving lessons again this spring would be a thing, but it sure hasn’t yet! The thing is, I don’t have enough confidence doing these things. I like them, but sharing them? God told me to make time for these things and share them. I asked if I would publish one of my books this year or get paid to edit somebody’s work. He told me? Yep, you guessed it. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Loving Lydia. My current family. “Don’t get so caught up in preparing for kid #2 that you forget about kid #1,” God told me. Tonight, days after God told me all this, Doug told me to make sure I love Lydia more than the nannies that we pay to help with her do. When Lydia gets hurt? She doesn’t even come to me. It’s either her daddy or the nanny currently working. I can’t always have my work desk in the kitchen; I need another space. That way, when I’m in the kitchen (which is connected to the living room), I can BE PRESENT.
Pray for others. I have prayed for so many strangers out loud, even in the middle of a waiting room. I like praying out loud with family, friends, strangers, whoever I feel like I’m supposed to pray with at that moment. I pray in my head, too, because sometimes I don’t have confidence to pray for somebody. But thank you, Jesus, that I have come so far in that area! There are seven billion people in the world. Oh, that I could bless a few!
And so, along with the post-it note that will go on my mirror, I will keep a typed up list of these things, too. These are the things I shall focus on in 2018. What will you focus on?
On September 29, 2017, I was healed of MS. I was able to feel
fine texture with my fingers again. Muscles were firing that hadn’t in more than ten years. Later that week, I had strep throat, and I wasn’t bed-ridden or extra-weak like usual. I could not deny. I praised God for my healing daily. I wrote about that in this blog.
On the night of November 3, 2017, I couldn’t even sleep for the spasms of my muscles. Doug didn’t sleep much, either. I saw the clock every hour that night. I don’t know if I was awake from hour to hour or if I was awake the whole time. Lies had been flooding my head for a few days. I thought about goals I had set for myself that I hadn’t met. Steps I had tried to take, but didn’t actually. Maybe shuffled my foot forward. But I wasn’t even walking toward them. The next morning, I was as weak as I am when a relapse hits me hard. Neither Doug nor I knew what was going on; I had felt fine the evening before. We called in Lindsey, the nanny that wasn’t supposed to be there until later that day, to come in as fast as she could. After Lindsey and Doug helped me into the car, we went to the ER. By God’s grace, there weren’t many others there at 8am on Saturday morning. They checked me out for an infection of any kind. Blood count was fine, urine was healthy, strep test came back negative, chest x-ray looked good, heart was fine. I had totally expected to be admitted. They let me go hours after getting there with the diagnosis of an MS flare-up because I hadn’t been taking my medicine. They didn’t give me steroids or a plan, except, “follow up with your family doc.” I have never been released while I was still so weak.
So why was I a two-person assist again? Doug, who would have been at the library studying all day, stayed home so he’d be there to help when I needed it. Lindsey had to stay later in the day so I wouldn’t be alone. I’m healed, aren’t I? It was a fight. I battled depression a lot of the day. I slept a lot, but when I was awake, I recited scriptures on healing out loud. Over and over. I’d been having trouble staying strong after a matter of hours. I cried out to the Lord that I would keep strength through all of church the next day. Doug posted on a bunch of Facebook groups and contacted family and stuff. “We are declaring for God to rid Anna of MS once and for all and for His help. He has helped every time before, and He will do it again. Faithful is He.” That night, Doug and I knew we needed a miracle. Doug wouldn’t be able to stay home anymore, as his board exam is coming up soon. We have three nannies, but they’re not available to come two at a time.
The next day, I was stronger than the day before. At least I started out that way. I just prayed it would stay. And I went to church, where I received a ton of encouragement and prayer. We stayed in the church even after everyone left, and prayed. We knew we were in the midst of a battle, the enemy attacking us and those we closely interact with. After my afternoon nap, I didn’t need my wheelchair anymore!
I have been carrying around the healing scriptures and reading them. What other explanation is there for my healing this weekend than the marvelous work of God, the Healer, the Lord Almighty? I know I am in a spiritual battle, and I am standing with many brothers and sisters in Christ who are agreeing with me, as I stand with so many of them in their own battles.
If you would, you can stand with me. Pass these scriptures on to some of your own friends when you need a healing yourself. Read them out loud. You could need healing in your relationships, body, mind, or spirit. It is ALWAYS God’s will to heal you. So if you’re waiting for his will…that’s that. It is.
Psalm 107:20 “He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.”
Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 58:8 “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Proverbs 17:22 “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
Jeremiah 30:7 “But I will restore you to health and heal your wounds, declares the Lord, because you are called an outcast, Zion for whom no one cares.”
Jeremiah 33:6 “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”
James 5:14-15 “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
Matthew 4:23, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
Matthew 10:1 “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
1 Peter 2:24, “’He himself bore our sins’ in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by his wounds you have been healed.’”
Let these scriptures, read out loud, be the sword you fight with in your own battle. Pick up that helmet of salvation to guard your thoughts, your breastplate of righteousness to guard your heart, the belt of truth so you do not doubt what you have seen and heard. Tie on the gospel-ready shoes which will give you peace, and don’t forget to pick up that shield of faith, which can block the incoming attacks of the Enemy (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are in a battle, my friend. May God be with you!
This last weekend was amazing. I attended the “Awake and Arise” Conference on Friday and Saturday, where Buddy and Veronica McGlothlin ministered to us. We met in a storefront building on Hambley Boulevard in Pikeville, KY. I didn’t go expecting to be healed, but I knew God had used Veronica to do so many times in the past. I didn’t expect it, even though friends of mine were excited I could go because it was possible. I’ve been disappointed too many times in the past when expectations did not meet reality. But when Veronica came to minister healing to me, she asked me if I believed God could do anything. “Absolutely,” I responded. Buddy, Veronica, their daughter, Elissa, and others were praying for me. And I believed. I received it, and I thanked God for healing me. But as soon as I returned to my seat, I had doubts. The evening continued, where it was talked and sung about the fact that God can do anything. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” and verse 21 finishes the sentence, “to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations.”
I wrote in my journal, “I declare in the name of Jesus that my MRI will show NO lesions, not a trace. I BELIEVE with my heart, Lord!”
We talked about Joshua and Caleb. They believed God when the rest of Israel did not. We are a Joshua generation! God says to arise and take your mountain! I wrote in my journal, “God has given me health, and I am reclaiming it!”
While we all came to the front and Veronica was ministering to us again, Doug came up and told me, “Jump!” I was like, “What?” He said, “God told me to tell you to jump!” And so I slowly bent my knees and JUMPED! Both of my feet got some air! I jumped and landed without losing my balance. I could. Not. Jump. At all. Before. Especially while keeping my balance. I kept battling doubts in my mind, but I was successfully trampling them down.
When we fellowshipped after, I told some others about the MRI that would be clear on the following Friday, and they all got excited and agreed with me completely. Buddy commented that he could see my faith, and it was exciting. On our way home, Doug and I listened to the song “Hey Devil” by TobyMac. We sang very loud to the chorus: “Hey, Devil, go on, get your junk out of here, I don’t need you, I don’t need you! Hey, Devil, go on, get your junk out of here, I don’t need you, so move on!”
Saturday afternoon was the last part of the conference. I spoke with Veronica and Elissa before the session began, and told them how Doug had told me to jump, and I did. I even jumped again for them.
As we were singing, Veronica left from ministering to one individual to come to me. She touched me and said in my ear, “God hears you. You’ve been waiting, and he’s heard you.” Or something like that. Honestly, after she had ministered to me Friday night, I thought I wasn’t worthy enough of her prophesying or being specific to me. But she was then. As the singing continued. Doug leaned over to tell me, “I have to go to the bathroom, but take your brace off.” So I did! Now, that shoe did not have an insert along. And it turns out that my muscles don’t remember how exactly to work properly. But I could raise my left foot! That was my second MS symptom, I think, back in 2004. I showed Doug as soon as he got back. In his journal, he wrote, “9/30 is the new 10/13”. Instead of remembering the date I was diagnosed with a celebration of life, we will remember the day I was healed!
It was a different feel on Saturday, but I loved it. Veronica spoke over everyone, and while doing so, she pointed toward me and said that God has broken off the generational curse of MS in my family. She said some other things that pertained to me, as well, but the whole time she was speaking, I could just sense Jesus hugging me and smiling down at me. I told him in my heart “Forever you will receive glory for this!”
On Saturday night, Doug, my husband and student osteopathic doctor, was feeling and testing muscles that would always have trouble firing before. Those muscles, though weak, are activating again! I can feel everything with my fingers (that was the first MS symptom back in 2004), and my leg has all the sensation back! Stretching my left hamstring was like stretching a normal hamstring, not the feisty and resistant left leg he’d always stretched before. My muscles get fatigued easily, because it has been almost 13 years of incorrectly using them. But I’m using them! I wore my brace to church the following Sunday, for stability reasons, as my muscles are still weak. But, after some PT and time using everything again, I’m positive my body will function as it’s supposed to once again. As I was 13 when I was diagnosed, I don’t even really remember what a normal functioning body is supposed to feel like. But hey, I’m going to get to find out!
I had stopped taking my MS medicine in July, as we wanted to get pregnant again. I’d have to be off my medicine for four months before even trying to get pregnant. We had decided earlier in September to adopt instead, but I hadn’t let my neurologist know yet. On Sunday, a gal at church told Doug that for the last month or so, I’d been looking worse and worse when she saw me at church each week. But THAT DAY. I looked so much better! Had I been there, I would have added that not even a dose of my medicine could make me that much better that fast!
I found out on Tuesday that I have strep throat. I’m feeling tired, but I’m still able to walk and function! Whenever I had been getting sick in the last few years, it meant a worsening of my left sided weakness, and sometimes even paralysis. But I’m up and walking. My body feels tired like it did every day with the MS. I asked the question “Why?” but then God gives me this look. “It’s quite humanly normal to be tired when you’re sick, Anna.” Man, once I’m recovered and do some PT? I’m so excited to tell everybody and show off my clean MRI, as compared to the last one. God will continue to prove himself in wondrous ways!
A year ago, I was just getting strong enough and able to take care of myself again after living with my parents for three months. After that, I could move back home with my husband in Kentucky. We (Doug) moved into a one story house and had made sure it was handicap accessible before I got back. Pregnancy plus multiple sclerosis (MS) is ideally supposed to help the MS, even though it’s not on meds. Well, as I learned (even though I almost already knew), I am an exceptional case. Without meds, the MS in my body was pretty terrible. I’d gone without meds for a few years right after I was diagnosed with MS, until we found a drug that worked. For the first time in ten years, I was going MS-med-free, and it seemed to be going the same way. I would get an infection, and it would trigger a relapse. New lesions appeared in my brain during pregnancy. The day after I gave birth, I tried a new med that’s supposed to help patients with MS, too (not that it’s been researched tons yet). And although new lesions didn’t appear in my brain, the weakness was still pretty terrible.
In October, I was hospitalized when I became septic with a bladder, kidney, and blood infection all at once. When I get sick, I usually lose all strength in my body. After I was discharged (and stronger because antibiotics were helping me), I started some home health physical therapy (PT) in November. In January, I started up on outpatient PT, starting at the strongest I had ever been than working with that particular PTist, Judy. (She’d worked with me when I was pregnant, too.) I told Judy the first day I saw her that I wanted to ditch the walker. And pretty soon I was walking with two arm canes, and now, if I walk with an arm cane, I only use one! I still use my walker when I’m real tired, but those times are limited. (Yay!) Then, I started up on this walking machine thing called the Lokomat.
Basically, I go through the motions of walking, with about 50% of the effort on me. I also am not bearing any weight. For the first time in years, I don’t have to use most all my muscles to activate a weak one. The longest I have gone is for 30 minutes (as of April 3). This has also helped me with my stability! For the first time since January 2016, I have been able to stand for a whole shower, instead of needing a shower bench to sit on part way (or the whole way) through.
We have hired help at home (my caretaker/nanny) that helps me take care of my little girl, as I still can’t transfer her well or really walk with her yet. Whoever is there is also my hands and feet, as I still get tired pretty easily by running around or lifting things. And I call it “supervision” of me to make sure I don’t do something I probably shouldn’t be doing. They’ve been with me since Lydia was three weeks old, and in that time, I have better learned to ask for help when I need it. (Um, Lydia is now seven months old. SEVEN! Next thing I know, she’ll be off to school!? Lol.) Amanda, the gal who comes to our house to help me out that’s closest to my age, has become a dear friend of mine. I guess that longing for a friend to just sit and have coffee with I’ve had for years has finally been fulfilled!
So, I’m making a ton of progress. And, we just found out that after more than a MONTH, the only MS med that has ever really worked for me has FINALLY been cleared by my new insurance company, so I can start taking that again! I can’t even imagine my improvements after that starts! But don’t worry, I’ll keep ya’ll updated. 😀
Hugs, everyone! (Even if I don’t know you, I’m gonna send you a hug. I like hugs, and I’m excited about this stuff.)
JOY. It surpasses circumstances; it’s greater than happiness. Happiness is based on happenings, but joy comes straight from God. (Fruit of the Spirit, yo!)
I’ve been reflecting a lot on this in the past year. I’ve had so many reasons for joy; not just happiness. Though my grandpa died in January, I experienced joy knowing that he went to heaven and joined my grandma. Though I had many physical obstacles, I overcame them. I was confined to a wheelchair for a long time. But I became able to walk with a walker! I cried when, at my home church, I made it up the stairs to sing with the choir. What joy was brought to our lives when my healthy little daughter joined us at the beginning of September! She brings us more reason to smile every day.
One of the worst moments of my year—not all that many people know this—was the last time I went to the hospital at the beginning of October. We’d been keeping an eye on my rising fever, and when it hit 106, we called 911. By this time, I was septic: paralyzed in strength and my speech was slurred. Both Doug and I thought I was going to die. But God was not done with me yet. Over the next week in the hospital, I was not sad at the fact that I almost died and with my current state. Instead, I was joyful for the little things.
Doug and I had recently watched the movie “Miracles from Heaven.” In the movie, the mom, who tells the story, tells of the everyday miracles she realized she had witnessed over the whole trial. So I started keeping track of the miracles I saw every day. It really puts life into perspective. There are lists for each day I was in the hospital, and though I don’t make a list every day anymore, I am conscious of all the miracles around me. We are financially okay even though Doug is in his third year of med school, and I’m not working. Both sets of our parents are a huge help to us. There are two wonderful caretakers who come and help take care of me and Lydia when Doug is away. I am still walking with a walker, but my physical therapist, Judy, thinks I’ll be able to walk without it (as is my goal)! I AM getting stronger. I cannot take care of Lydia by myself yet, but I can do so much more with her than I could when she was more than half the weight she is now!
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:2-3). I have had MS a long time. I know that the joy in me wouldn’t be near what it is now if I had been free of this disease. I’m not saying it’s because of the MS my faith is where it is today; I’m just saying that even though I have MS, God has used it for good. I’ve got joy down in my heart, as the song says. Joy is greater than happiness.
P.S: I do have to share the HAPPY news that Lydia finally rolled over today! Yay!
So, I’ve been sitting at home, back in Kentucky, since April. I have checked and double checked our baby registry. I have been Bible art journaling. Even though I don’t have a lot of energy to do so, I have tried to help out around the house as I can. And yesterday, I realized. Why am I not writing? Why am I not playing piano every day? These two activities are ones that I LOVE; have much finger dexterity in February or March, but I have it back now! Why is the child in my womb not hearing her mommy play music all the time? Why has my creative slow simply stopped?
So, I am re-discovering ANNA. I have made a commitment to write and play the piano, 30 minutes a day each. I have an author friend who was starting to write a book in October or November, and she published it a few weeks ago. Why do I drag my stinkin’ feet every time I close in on a goal of mine? Yeah, the first book I self-published, I went about it all wrong. But that doesn’t mean I should STOP. I had to cancel piano lessons in January, because of my relapse, which led me to live in Minnesota for a few months while everything was figured out health-wise. But I have heard interest of new students—why have I not been pursuing them super hard? Um, if I leave it all up to them, they won’t be taught!
In the next year, I plan to WRITE. I plan to self-publish more books that I think my audience will enjoy. Books that have been cooking in my head for YEARS, that simply need to be refined and rewritten. I didn’t even sleep very much last night, because my brain was remembering all the things I have wanted to do for so long. I have two months until baby comes. Then, even though I’ll be exhausted, I will still be at home. Even if my body can’t do everything I want it to when I want it to, I can WRITE. I can PLAY. So, what am I waiting for? I even got up at 6am this morning because I couldn’t wait. (I’ll probably crash in a few hours, but hey, I’m up now!)
2 Corinthians 1:8-10: 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.
I have been looking into spiritual warfare a lot lately. I have also been reflecting on my inward struggles and have decided to draw up a battle plan. My biggest inward struggle is against the depression and anxiety that try to control the rest of me. It has been since I can remember. I am at a much better place than I once was. The biggest current struggle now, is that the serotonin-deprived parts of my brain are trying to convince me that it’s not worth exercising or stretching every day. It’ll tire me out and prevent me from getting anything else done today. It might get better for a little while, but then one slip up, and I’ll be right back where I started. It’s almost Thanksgiving, when we’ll be flying back to Minnesota. Car rides and flights always set me back. Why bother? This is a lie I have struggled with for FAR too long.
This spiritual battle wages because we are given the power to overcome sin’s grasps when we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. There is no battle when there is no opposing side. The Spirit of God brings us to life spiritually, but we still live in these bodies of flesh that still have a sinful nature. Thus, the battles rages—but victory is assured because we are in Christ! (Matthew 26:41; Romans 7:14-20; Galatians 6:16-17)
In Genesis 4, Cain gets angry that God didn’t look upon him and his sacrifices with favor as God did with his brother, Abel. God addresses it in verses 6 and 7: “6 Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” God tells us to fight against sinful feelings! These feelings of depression and anxiety? THEY DON’T CONTROL ME!
Isaiah 53:4-5: “4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for out transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Here, we discover that Jesus went to the cross for our body, soul, and spirit. His suffering was not just for our soul’s salvation, but the HEALING of our soul, as well! He brings us peace—because not only are our sins on that cross, but so are EMOTIONS, FEELINGS, and everything we can imagine! Frustrated? Nail it to the cross. Depressed? Nail it to the cross. Anxious? It’s on the cross!
I know these are a lot of scriptures, but these battle plans need more than just words of mine. You see, the word of God is the sword of the spirit. And with the faith that we receive by reading these verses of truth, we can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16-17). I shall continue.
The very first scripture I wrote was a time when Paul was depressed. So depressed that he despaired of life itself. In 1 Kings 19:3-4, we see Elijah when he is depressed. “3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom brush, sat down under it, and prayed he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’” Here, we see Elijah in isolation. Depression THRIVES on isolation. Shame is in the driver’s seat when depression shows up. “I am no better than my ancestors who died in the desert before seeing the Promised Land. Kill me, too!” That sounds an awful lot like what I said earlier in this post: It’s not worth exercising. I’ll just go backwards, anyway. I’ll just have this disability forever. Ahh!
How do I fight this? I need to focus on God changing ME instead of what’s around me. In Matthew 14, Jesus is walking on the water, and Peter asks to be called out, too. Picking up in verse 30: “But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ 32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.” Peter didn’t pray for the storm to stop, he prayed, “Lord, do a work in me! Reach down and rescue me!” – THEN, the storm stopped! I’m not going to wait until I get miraculously better or I “feel like” exercising or stretching. I can’t keep praying that I’ll “feel like” exercising and stretching more. I just need to DO IT. Because I know that when I take a step, God will be there to guide it. Peter walked on the water until he saw his circumstances and got scared. I’ve been scared too long.
I talked a lot about exercising and stretching for my MS in this post, which is definitely something I need to be doing. I have been dealing with a lot of other lies that this battle plan will help to eliminate. The first step of what I need to do is to straighten all these things out in my mind. Actions are the follow through of thoughts, and I need to start there. Instead of praying that I’ll get more work and that it will pick up, how about I start doing the work I have better? It all starts in my mind.
“…But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:9b-10).
“The Spoon Theory” was thought up by an individual with Lupus. It always makes me sad to think about, because I don’t have to plan life as much as she does. She has to plan around her ability to button shirts in the morning or take extra time to look presentable if there are bruises on her arms or if her hair is falling out. You can view her original story here. Anyway, I was thinking about this as I read the article to Dr. Wile E. Coyote yesterday morning, and I wanted to create my own spoon theory. Anyone who is physically disabled or has an illness such as MS, fibromyalgia, Lupus, no matter how severe or not, can relate to the Spoon Theory.
Each spoon represents energy that I have in my day. People who are not sick have an unlimited number of spoons, and even if they use them all up in a day, many are regained with a good night’s sleep. This analogy also works well with a gas tank, that once you run out, it takes another night’s sleep to gain it back. But for the sake of this post, I will stick to spoons.
I’ll begin this illustration by handing you, my reader, twelve spoons.
“Only 12?” You ask suspiciously. Yes. Only 12. Let us begin the day.
At 2, 4, and 7 am, we get up to go to the bathroom, so it is really hard to get up later. Luckily, I do not work in the morning, so if I don’t get up until 8:30 or 9, it’s okay. But I’m already behind. But I have 12 spoons. At 8:47am, I get out of bed. I get up, shuffle through the clothes in my closet, and get dressed. I go to the bathroom to take my medicine, brush my teeth, put on some makeup, and just in general be ready for the day. I then go and put a bowl and some cereal on the table, make a pot of coffee, and sit down to eat breakfast. Oops, there are only 11 spoons in our hands now. I was standing for much too long this morning. Unlike others who have central nervous system diseases, I don’t notice when a spoon is missing until I sit down and relax for a moment. You can see how this may be hard when I am go-go-go for too long. It also doesn’t help how stubborn I am at times.
After breakfast, I sit down with my Bible, journal, and cup of coffee to spend some quality time with Jesus. I love doing this daily for a few reasons: 1) It starts off my day with eternal thinking, which always puts me in a better mindset when it comes to other things. And 2) It doesn’t cost a spoon. : ) Then I go ahead and do some chores. I put some clothes in the wash, and I decide to get some supper started in the crock pot while I’m up and on my feet right now. If I went and sat back down now, I would not lose a spoon, but because I have all this energy and am motivated and already here, I shall continue—but I lost another spoon. After supper is started and clothes are put in the drier some 20 minutes later, I sit back down in my spot to rest and catch up on some writing or reading or something else on my computer. I have 10 spoons. I wanted to go shopping today, but I also have to work today. Shopping usually costs about 3 spoons, so I decide to go tomorrow. We’re out of milk, but Dr. Coyote will make eggs or something for breakfast for himself. Shoot, we’re out of eggs, too. “Well, then, I shouldn’t have done laundry and started supper if I wanted to do all those things today!” I say frustratedly to myself. I look at my schedule the rest of the day and plan it out.
I leave at 11am to go grocery shopping, and after I decide something, I’ll do it, even if I…shouldn’t. If I leave at 11, I know Dr. Coyote will be out of class in time to help me unload groceries (because I texted him as I left). But as I’m grocery shopping, I have to back track because I forgot that something on my list was in the second aisle, not the second-to-last like in my hometown. I skipped getting another thing that I really did forget on my list simply because I didn’t want to lose another spoon. I have 6 spoons when I get inside the hot car, and 5 spoons before the car cools down enough where I feel like I’m breathing fresh air and my body temp goes down.
As soon as I get home, I climb the stairs with eggs in my hand, put the eggs away, and sit down, exhausted, with 4 spoons left. I didn’t take as long as I thought I might, so it’s not even noon yet when I crash. I listen as Dr. Coyote gets home and heads right for the car, taking as many groceries in his hands each trip as he can. He then starts putting groceries away (because he is such a sweet guy like that). At 12:18, I get up to help with the last few things. I now have 5 spoons again, because that sitting break is exactly what I needed.
“What do you want for lunch?” I ask my husband. He has to leave for class again at 12:55, so that doesn’t leave us much time. Had I not went grocery shopping, I could have had lunch started, or even finished by now. I beat myself for it, but Dr. Coyote tells me to go sit down again, because he has an idea for lunch.
I join Dr. Coyote at the table as he finishes putting together salads on two different plates, thanking him for carrying up the groceries and for making lunch. We eat and visit. I still have 5 spoons left, but I think I can get another back before I need to go to work.
That is just the first half of my day, but I do have to plan a little more. These are some recent examples of some harder days I’ve had. But I learn from my mistakes. I haven’t always planned enough in my day, but I know what I can and cannot do. Unfortunately, I’ve had to learn a lot of that through trial-and-error, but I don’t make the same mistakes forever. I’m not always aware when I’ve just dropped a spoon or took one away until after it has happened. Sometimes, I take tomorrow’s spoons by mistake, and have a harder day tomorrow.
Dr. Wile E. Coyote is learning more about MS in me and MS in general, as well. I share with him little bits, but it wasn’t until I read him the original spoon theory article that he really understood. Reading articles from the MS Society, I do know that people who have MS use 5x more energy than people without. We have to think as we walk. I have a limp, and need to lift up my left leg, even when it feels s o h e a v y at times.
In an article I read by Cathy Chester yesterday morning, I learned that there are a few different kinds of fatigue. There is primary MS fatigue, which Chester described as “waking up feeling somewhat energized, then feeling tired in the afternoon and less tired in the evening.” There are also different forms of secondary MS fatigue. Nerve fiber fatigue is when you are doing something, like walking or playing the piano, and suddenly your legs or your fingers feel weak. Both of these happen to me personally. There is fatigue of walking with a disability, which I have already discussed. There is fatigue caused by disrupted sleep. I have experienced this, as well, as urinary problems and other digestive problems have woken me up in the night repeatedly. To learn more about MS fatigue and what you can do about it, read the article I read yesterday here. I have found that planning, as well as rest breaks, work for me. I have jobs where I can sit while I work, and I have family, friends, and an amazing husband who will all help me out when needed. They don’t even know when they step up and rescue me, but God knows what I need and makes sure I get it.
I felt like I should write this so that my friends and family can understand me better. I have told this story to one friend, who had tears in her eyes as I finished, because she simply hadn’t understood before. I don’t want people to always feel like they need to help me, because I am independent and can do plenty of things on my own. But when I can’t do everything that one might expect, this is why. I haven’t completely understood how to explain, nor have I wanted the sympathy that stories like this sometimes bring. But I have come to a place where I would just like you to understand.
I’d like to hear from you: If you have an illness, do you have to plan your day around your illness? What kinds of things do you do to help yourself? If you don’t have an illness, does the spoon theory help you understand other illnesses better?
On this day ten years ago….my mother and I traveled an hour away from my hometown to visit my neurologist to receive my official diagnosis. The results from the spinal tap had come back, and finally, Dr. Nelson would tell us for sure if I had a pinched nerve, MS, or a brain tumor. He had given all three of these as possibilities as to why my entire left side had stopped working normally, but his theory was that I most likely had MS. That is what we knew before we got to Wilmar, MN. I was CONVINCED that it was nothing but a pinched nerve, and for some unknown reason my name had been on the prayer list at church for the last few weeks.
On that day, ten years ago, I was officially diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was started on some medical steroids, and I was shown how to use the Autoject for my three-times-weekly medicine shots, just under the skin. (It would be another year before I gave myself those shots….and, of course, I was bribed—because what other way is there for a kid to be willing to do something unless they get something in return?)
Since my diagnosis, we have called the anniversary of that day my “celebration of life.” It is the day when I can look back on a year and see all the things I have been able to do, even though I have MS. On this ten-year anniversary of this life-altering diagnosis, I reflect on the things I have accomplished in my life!
1. I’ve been on all sorts of cool vacations and stuff.
Who cares if I had to rent a wheelchair to go Disneyworld? I went to Disneyworld! I’ve also rented wheelchairs at zoos, and even the Minnesota State Fair. Those places take a lot of walking, and I don’t quite have the energy to walk all that way. But I still got to experience it and enjoy my visits! Those places, by the way, have been the only ones I rented a wheelchair for. I can still walk! ….just not super far. I’ve been to the Wisconsin Dells and the Black Hills of South Dakota, just doing the tourist thing because I could. In high school, I went to a youth gathering with a church denomination, and had an AWESOME time with my cousin Jenni and my aunt Sheryl! In college, I went on TWO summer mission projects. Just because I have MS, doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! So I have to plan a little extra, and the south is typically a bad idea in the summer. I STILL LIVE LIFE.
2. In middle school, there were no cheerleaders, and I wanted to be one, so I petitioned and found a coach for middle school basketball cheerleaders!
We were moderately good. Our most difficult move was when one cheerleader stood on the thighs of two other cheerleaders, but we stayed safe. I wasn’t really into watching sports, but I did notice that when our middle school teams had cheerleaders, the whole “crowd” was pretty riled up. You know, for a middle school game. Smiley face. Of course, this cheerleading team kind of left the middle school when I did. I always wanted to be a cheerleader. Our high school had football cheerleading, but by that time, I just wanted to play in the pep band. (We see why I became a music major?)
I was also on the golf team for a few years before the walking became too much for me and I acknowledged that I wasn’t that great. But it was fun!
3. I got my black belt!
Actually, I started Tae Kwon Do in 4th grade. In 7th grade, I got my junior black belt. I was diagnosed with MS in 8th grade. In 9th grade, I got my 2nd degree junior black belt. After I turned 16, sophomore year, I got my first degree adult black belt. And senior year, I got my second degree adult black belt! I was involved in Tae Kwon Do for 8 years; 5 of those years after having MS. I remember difficulty in my first tournament after being diagnosed, but then I just focused on what I COULD do instead of what I COULDN’T. I taught and I was a referee as my level advanced. I became inactive in TKD after I graduated high school, but I will always be a second degree black belt!
4. I finished high school AND college.
One of my college professors once told me that he had never seen such determination in a student. So I wasn’t the best. Who cares? I did as best I could. I was DETERMINED to finish well and I learned a ton while in those college years. I wrote a post about what MS has taught me over the last decade or so here.
5. I played a senior recital of percussion music.
At that time in my life, I had skill, because I was playing on these instruments all the time. I played a piece on the marimba, the timpani, some toms (drums), the vibraphone, and even flower pots! (Videos of all these can be seen on YouTube.) I loved that season in my life, when I could go from instrument to instrument in the percussion section in an empty band room and just PLAY.
6. I’ve had a “grown-up job” since I graduated.
Even before I graduated, I’ve been giving private lessons. According to some of my other music-major friends, I wasn’t charging enough, but still. As soon as I graduated, I got on the substitute teacher list for a few different school districts. And when I got to Kentucky, of course, I began working at a music store—giving lessons! And now I’ve started up this Mary Kay business! Before I was married, I paid my own rent, bought my own food, and loved when Mom and Dad came to Sioux Falls to take me grocery shopping. And now, I don’t get many visits from Mom and Dad (because I currently live, like, 20 hours away), but I still get care packages of coffee brands that aren’t sold in the south. (Thanks, mom!)
7. I’ve written, like, four novels.
Only one I’ve written is decent enough for me to want to publish it, but I do want to publish it! [2015 edit: you can find my first book here.] I also write shortstories and blog posts all the time. And other little things when I feel like it. I’ve kept a journal since I was diagnosed! And things have just kept moving from there. I don’t believe they will ever stop, either.
8. I wrote music for a class in college and directed an ensemble playing it in church one time.
So I maybe didn’t take into consideration that band instruments play better in flats than sharps. And that high school students can’t pick up music as fast as college students. But I was so proud of that piece! I even published my college friends and I playing the piece here on YouTube.
9. I GOT MARRIED!
Just this last summer, if you are keeping up with me at all on this blog. (I’ve kinda talked about it a lot….) Never did I ever think I would meet a man who saw ME past the MS that has been so apparent in my life. I have a limp, which is the most obvious symptom to the world and the first turn-off to anybody who sees that instead of me first (which is pretty much everybody). But Dr. Wile E. Coyote, while he notices my limp, only notices if it’s a bad day or a good day and helps me stretch sometimes. Or if he’s walking with me, and I pull him around. (He’s not as sturdy as my sisters when they’ve walked with me, hehe.) I love Dr. Coyote, my best friend, and he is what I need. But God knew that. And I am privileged to be starting this med school journey with him and trusting the Lord until graduation, and beyond! (Like, forever. Every. Minute.)
10. I have become stronger than I thought possible.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have had to push past the limits of where I would want to quit because something is hard. Being diagnosed so young (at 13), I had to face many decisions and situations that most teens shouldn’t have to face. I thank the good Lord for my always-supportive family who helped me so much!
On this day in ten years, who knows what things I’ll accomplish that I’ll be able to remember? The thing about having MS is that though we have to plan a little more, sometimes sleep a little more, and maybe be careful of what activities we chose to partake in, we still live normal lives. I haven’t felt normal for years, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I would love to wake up one day and the Lord tell me, “You’re cured!” But I know that when people see me walking with a limp, unphased, it brings God more glory.
Anna E Meyer
So I’ve talked about what I’ve learned and what I’ve done, MS wise. What else would you all like to know (MS-wise)?