Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Next Year in Jerusalem

Why do we celebrate Christmas? I'm sure almost everyone could give the Sunday School answer to that..."It's Jesus' birthday!"

And if you said that, you'd be correct! But if you really think about it, WHY do we celebrate His birthday? Nothing changed that day...okay, I know Jesus being born is a big deal, but think again...salvation DIDN'T come that day, if Jesus had not lived a perfect life, His dying on the cross would have been meaningless. So why do we celebrate?

Why did God tell the shepherds to go to Bethlehem to see Jesus? Again, TECHNICALLY salvation had yet to be accomplished. So what were they celebrating? A popular Christmas song that can be heard on the radio (practically on repeat right now...) has the line "hope is born today."

And THAT I think is the key. HOPE. God makes promises, and He always keeps those promises. But at the same time, He recognizes that we are human...and we forget. So He gives us glimpses of the fulfillment of those promises along the way so we don't grow weary. Even when we do not always see the fulfillment of those promises because it may not happen during our lifetime, God still gives us the glimpse of that fulfillment.

In Luke 2, Simeon and Anna were two people that had lived their whole lives being promised the coming of the Messiah. They had not and would not see the fulfillment of Jesus dying on the cross and rising again, but God gave them a glimpse of His promise in the birth of Christ. HOPE had come to them.

And I believe that is the real reason we celebrate Christmas or at least why we SHOULD celebrate. We should think about celebrating the HOPE of salvation that came when Jesus was born.

Why am I mentioning all this? Because I feel like Simeon and Anna right now...I believe that God has promised healing. I believe that there will be a day when I will be completely healed and will not have any pain or nausea or health problems. BUT I do not have a guarantee that the fulfillment of that promise will occur in this life. Because I have the hope of heaven, I know that eventually I WILL BE HEALED. At this time of year, when we are celebrating the HOPE of salvation, it reminds me that I can (and should) also HOPE in the promise of being healed. Just as Simeon and Anna did not see the complete fulfillment of salvation in their lives, but were grateful to God for the glimpse of that salvation in the birth of Christ; I feel that this Christmas season is a good reminder of holding onto the HOPE of eternal life where there will be no more sickness or pain.

At Passover every year, at the end of the Seder we shout "Next year in Jerusalem!" That is a reference of hoping for the second coming of Christ and the hope of heaven. I'm saying "Next year OUT OF THE HOSPITAL" in hope of less medically filled year in 2015, but REGARDLESS of the physical circumstances, there is ALWAYS the HOPE of healing.

Merry Christmas! (and Happy Chanukah for my Jewish friends and family!)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

The title of this post would be referring to yet another medication designed to help my relentless GI issues that I can no longer take...while I don't really want to take it anymore after the events of this past week, it is a bit disappointing and disconcerting that the one medication that was at least making a dent in my nausea is now not an option...

I apologize if I'm sounding like a broken record, but THANK YOU so much for praying for me and Nick and my family. As much of a challenge as it is to be in the hospital, it is reassuring to know that our needs are being interceded for us when we can't or don't know what to pray for ourselves. Hopefully most of you have received an update from either me or my parents at this point, but if not (or if you want more of the gory details =P) here's the short version of what happened.

Saturday evening after the Christmas concert at our church, I ended up being taken by ambulance to the ER for seizure-like tremors, being unresponsive, and having trouble communicating. I was sent home late that night (early Sunday morning),  but when I woke up on Sunday, was still having tremors, speech difficulties, and vision problems along with my more typical symptoms. After talking with my primary doctor's office, we returned to the hospital so I could be admitted for a neurological evaluation.

I do not remember anything about being in the ER Saturday night or anything from Sunday. Monday when I did become more aware of what was going on, I was still having tremors and speech difficulties. Unfortunately, even with my clear neurological symptoms, it was a battle with the doctor assigned to my case to get a neurology consult...because of my complex medical history, she wanted to attribute my symptoms to my known conditions and did not feel the need for further testing. We spent almost 2 days trying to convince her that the reason we were there was because these were NEW symptoms that I had not experienced before and my primary doctor had sent me there so I could get a neurology workup...it was extremely frustrating to have her not listen to our concerns, especially since I was already having trouble communicating...

We finally decided to contact my specialists in MN and WI and get their opinions. I had seen both of them within the past month, so we sent videos of my tremors and speech issues. Both doctors responded quickly and said I needed an EEG to rule out a seizure disorder. The doctor in the hospital finally relented when we showed her the email from these doctors.

Originally she had wanted to discharge me Tuesday, since she felt there was no need for a neurological assessment, but when we continued to push for it, she agreed and the EEG was scheduled for Tuesday evening. It was disappointing to know I'd be there another night, but we were glad to get the test scheduled. Little did we know how thankful we would be that I was still in the hospital later that night...

Around 9pm when neurology still had not come to do the EEG, we figured it wasn't going to happen until the next morning. Shortly after Nick left to head home, I started complaining of a severe headache and became unresponsive again. I don't remember anything that happened during this event, but my mom and Nick said it was a definitely a God-thing that we were still in the hospital because we probably would have ended up back there had we been sent home. I wouldn't (or couldn't) swallow any medication, so I did not take my evening meds Tuesday night. They gave me some IV medication to see if it would resolve the headache, and thankfully, it eased the headache, stopped the tremors, and knocked me out for the night.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I was fine. No tremors, no headache, no speech problems...it was a complete 180. We started trying to connect the dots...and finally made the connection! Last week I had gone back to MN with my mom for a follow-up appointment. Unfortunately, I left one of my medications there so I had not taken it for 2.5 days prior to returning to Ohio. Saturday when I got back, I took a double dose of that med (per doctor's orders). I was on that medication the entire time I was in the hospital until Tuesday night when the headache prevented me from taking it. Wednesday I was fine.

We looked it up online and found that while it's a rare side effect, seizure-like tremors and speech difficulties can be a side effect for this medication. We called my doctor in PA who put me on the medication and explained the situation. He agreed that it is a very rare side effect, but he had seen one other patient who also had a seizure and speech problems after increasing the dose....scary to hear, but we were thankful to have an answer!

I did finally get the EEG Wednesday morning, and it was normal...which we expected since by then I had no symptoms...figures...oh well, we were thankful to have figured it out even if the doctor in the hospital still didn't completely agree. I have been home since mid-day Wednesday and have not had any neurological symptoms come back! Yay!

Unfortunately, all my GI issues are still present and seem to be even worse right now. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this medication was the first one to make a dent in my nausea...we were increasing the dose because it still was not completely effective. Because I had such a severe reaction, I cannot take even the lower dose anymore...so we are back to square one in treating my stomach.

I am very thankful to be out of the hospital, and very thankful to have found the reason for those neurological symptoms. It was a scary week, but there were glimpses of God's hand on the situation even when it felt out of control. Again, thank you for your prayers and for walking through this difficult season with us. I wish I could tell everyone in person how grateful we are for the emails, texts, and prayers that really do make a huge difference when it feels like everything is going wrong.

Less than a week until Christmas, and I'm looking forward to celebrating with lots of family (yay for great parents and in-laws!) and NOT in the hospital! While I did spend the first night of Chanukah (Tuesday) in the hospital, I've been home since then and Nick is doing fabulously with his Hebrew while reciting the prayers each night when we light the menorah! Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Glory and Suffering

Every now and again, there is a song that comes on the radio that seems to really speak to exactly where I'm at. Usually I like to run or get outside when I need to clear my head or pray, but sometimes a song just grabs me and kinda hits me in the face. The Hurt and the Healer by MercyMe is one that is fairly popular right now (at least enough that it's played on the radio pretty often) that I've really connected with recently.

One of the lines in the songs is "where glory meets my suffering." This has felt like my lifeline during this rough season for me, because it's a great reminder that God doesn't leave us alone when we are down. Instead, that is when His glory shines through the pain and meets us where we are at. How amazing is it that God is willing to meet me in the midst of my pain and suffering???? That I do not follow a God who leaves me alone to struggle and then picks me up on the other side, but one who walks beside me and give me strength in the moment. In reality, this line really represents the core of our faith. Jesus (glory) came to earth and left His place in heaven to provide a way for everyone to be freed from sin (suffering). The ultimate representation of God's glory, Jesus Himself, met us in our ultimate suffering of being bound by sin...and because of that we are forever made free...DAYENU! But just that act of salvation was not enough for God, so He continues to extend His glory for our suffering daily, hourly, every minute that we are suffering. What a God we serve!

A few weeks ago in the car, my mom and I were talking about this song, and she mentioned that she had thought the line was "when glory NEEDS my suffering." Well that kinda changes things...why would a God who is glorious need (or want) us to suffer? For I while I thought about this (even after we determined that's not actually what the song says...haha). Does glory need suffering? What does that mean about God?

And I came to the conclusion that ABSOLUTELY glory needs suffering. It couldn't be glory without it. If you walk into a room in the middle of the day and turn a light on, it doesn't get that much brighter. BUT, in the middle of the night, that same room will be completely illuminated when the light is turned on. I think that's a great representation of how our lives look...if everything is always perfect and nothing is going wrong, God's glory CANNOT shine brightly. When things are good, we can become dangerously close of losing sight of how brightly God's glory can shine. When things are dark and suffering is all we can see so much that darkness is overwhelming, it's in those moments that God's glory is able to shine all that much brighter.

Does that mean that God wants us to suffer? NO. But the reality is that we live in a world full of pain and suffering. We will not have perfect lives as believers, if anything the struggles may seem all that more real and challenging because we are more aware of the battle between our flesh and the spirit. So when that suffering comes in our lives, while it may be some of the most trying and difficult times to get through, God IS always there in the midst of those dark moments. And I do believe that it is in those moments that He can shine the brightest.

Right now, LIFE IS HARD. I'm not going to sugar coat it or pretend anymore that nothing is wrong. But at the same time that life is hard, GOD IS GOOD, and His glory is shining brightly. I may not see everything now, but I do believe that God has a purpose and that he can use my struggles to bring glory to Him. Not sure how it's all going to play out, and absolutely I hope I reach the end of this season of suffering soon, but until then, I know that my hurt and my Healer are coming together in accordance with God's plan.

The question that is never far away
The healing doesn't come from being explained
Jesus please don't let this go in vain
You're all I have
All that remains

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into Your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

Sometimes I feel it's all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

It's the moment when humanity
Is overcome by majesty
When grace is ushered in for good
And all our scars are understood
When mercy takes it's rightful place
And all these questions fade away
When out of the weakness we must bow
And hear you say "It's over now"

Jesus come and break my fear
Wake my heart and take my tears
Find Your glory even here
When the hurt and the healer collide

"The Hurt and the Healer"