Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Heart Cries Out



Lord,

Today my heart cries out to You.  You have been with me, beside me every step of the way, through this journey of loss and infertility.  My pain is fresh and my wounds unhealed.  There is an emptiness in me that only You can fill.  I have mistakenly believed throughout this journey that another child would fill that void, but You have corrected my thoughts and led me to understand that only You, Lord, can fulfill me.

I share this prayer with those who are reading this because I believe in Your power.  I have seen it at work in my life and the lives of so many of our friends.  I am calling on the name of Jesus and claiming the power in that name to see my prayers answered.  I understand that Your answer may not be the one I am hoping for, but I know that You have the best plans for me!


I confess that I am cautious and somewhat fearful to be this transparent, to share this innermost struggle with friends and family.  But I gain my strength from You, Lord.  You alone know my heart's desire and the heartbreak that has been my constant companion for 5 years of struggling.  You alone know the pain I feel when my heart wants to celebrate the joy of friends that welcome new life into their families, but that same heart breaks as it is a reminder of our own loss.  You alone know the feelings of guilt at the selfishness of these struggles.

I am opening my heart and soul, Lord, so that others that may be struggling with the same issues or even similar ones, will know they are not alone.  I have fallen into the trap of the enemy of feeling alone in my struggle, I have believed the lie that no one will understand, no one will care, and even worse, people will judge me for how I have felt.

So today, I let that go.  I fully commit to believe that You are a powerful and loving God who is capable of providing my heart's desire.  I will proceed as if my prayer is answered, because I know it is, Lord.

Amen.



 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Broken Into Beautiful: Post 9

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.  He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.
-Zephaniah 3:17





Every day there are dozens of things vying for my attention: housework, my children, my husband, my chronic pain, television, work, the internet, social media, and many many more.  But there is One who deserves the top spot in my life each and every day: God, my Heavenly Father, my Savior.  God wants nothing more from me than to be the number one priority in my life.

It is so very easy to get distracted by all of the details of life that require our attention, but there is One who deserves our full attention all the time.  I find when God is is not my top priority, the other areas of my life seem out of focus and off track.  

God's promises are eternal.  Psalm 103:17 tells us His love is everlasting from generation to generation for those who fear Him.  In this context "fear" can be interpreted as "prioritize" or "respect" as opposed to "be afraid of".  God wants to be the center of our lives, and with our commitment to make Him so, He promises everlasting love throughout the generations.













God has an eternal perspective on things.  He calls us to have the same, but it is a challenge for our limited human understanding to consistently comprehend life from an eternal perspective.

Isaiah 55:8-9 makes it clear that His thoughts are higher than ours.  His ways are higher than ours and are beyond anything we could possibly imagine.  We are prone to believe the lies of the enemy, but are called by God to focus on His perspective of our lives instead.












I have believed many lies in my life:
-I am worthless
-I am ugly
-I am cold-hearted
-I am lazy

 But God pulls me back from the slippery slope of these  lies.  He cares for me and reminds me that I am precious to Him, that my value is in Him.  God wants us to receive His love and then respond to it.  We are to share it, experience it, be transformed and redeemed by it.

"When we lay down our fears and anxieties before the Lord His perfect love drives the fear away and breathes joy into our souls." -Gwen Smith






Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all His benefits-
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
-Psalm 103:1-5

We are called to:

  1. Love God More: Our love for Him should be ever-increasing
  2. Love Others Louder: Accept one another, serve one another, our love for others is a reflection of God's love for us.
Blessings,
Meri

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Firm A Foundation (She Reads Truth-Hymns)





I so desperately want to cling to these words, this promise from my Heavenly Father.  Much of the time, I am able to confidently faith that God is in control and He will not leave me.  But there are still many times that the fear and anxiety take hold and I cannot shake them, no matter how hard I try to trust in what I know to be truth.

"...if it shall come to pass that for Christ's sake and the gospel's you shall endure suffering in any shape, shrink not, but rejoice in the honour thus conferred upon you, that you are counted worthy to suffer with your Lord; and joy also in this-that your sufferings, your losses, and persecutions shall make you a platform, from which the more vigorously and with greater power you shall witness for Christ Jesus." -Charles Spurgeon

Reading this, my thoughts go to Pastor Saaed, imprisoned in the Middle East for simply professing his faith in Jesus Christ.  He has been separated from his family, he has missed the birthdays of his children, wedding anniversaries, and so many other special moments.  All the while, he is rotting away in a prison cell, but he is praising the name of Jesus!  Y'all-that is faith in action.  This is a living example of what the Apostle Paul experienced in Rome.
I look at this faithful servant's situation and I contemplate and mourn over the loss of Christian lives at the hands of radical terrorists and I think, Lord-how could I handle that?  Could I be so brave?

I have always struggled with some amount of social anxiety.  I experienced betrayal by people I thought were my friends at a young age, and not just once.  I am just now, in my mid-thirties, learning to trust others and allowing a level of vulnerability in my relationships that I have not been able to allow in the past.  But it is hard for me.  I have days that I just curl up on the couch and block everything out.

But then I remember God's promise in Deuteronomy and I am encouraged.  Friends, He knows this is my struggle.  He knows my innermost thoughts and feelings.  Yet He is there, standing firm, covering me with his protective wings, guiding my steps and never leaving my side.



How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
 
In every condition, in sickness, in health;
In poverty's vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.
 
Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
 
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to belss,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
 
When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt they; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
 
-How Firm A Foundation, Robert Keane

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

It Is Well With My Soul (She Reads Truth-Hymns)






Praying for my Momma today as she undergoes surgery to correct a blocked artery in her neck.  Not much to say today, but the words of this sweet hymn are imprinted on my heart.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows, like sea billows, roll; 
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, 
Let this blest assurance control
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole, 
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

-Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Friendship: Post 5



"Adult friendships are hard.  Be friends who are patient, who are willing to pick up where you left off, and forgive one another when you are imperfect."
-Lisa Leonard

Being an adult is hard.  I remember when I was a pre-teen/teenager, I couldn't wait to grow up.  Now I am experiencing this with my own children-I have an almost-10-year-old and almost-13-year-old that can't wait to grow up.  I find myself channeling my own mother when I tell them "don't be in such a hurry to grow up!".
I find that things that came easily to me when I was a child, are much harder as an adult.  Although-I have never been very good at making friends, perhaps because I didn't really know how to be a good friend until recently (and I am still learning, in all honesty!).  Running, playing, drawing, coloring, learning, bending down....all of these (and many more) were definitely easier as a child.



God calls us to love one another, just as He loves us.  This is so important to adult friendships.  We need love.  We desperately need patience.  We need kindness.  We need friends.

Forgiveness is another cornerstone of any godly relationship.  We are sinful and imperfect creatures striving to emulate a perfect God, but failing miserably.  Thankfully, God's grace has covered our multitude of sins.  Sadly, we are quick to forget how much sin that grace has covered when we are faced with imperfection in a friend or family member.  We so readily overlook all of the wonderful things about that person and focus on the perceived imperfection.

It is easy to be quick to anger and quick to judge our friends, but God calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven by Him.  This is much easier said than done, but is such a valuable trait to master-it is worth working hard at in all of our relationships.

Blessings
Meri

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (She Reads Truth-Hymns)






I played the violin for many years, starting when I was about 3 years old.  My mother has a beautiful singing voice and I spent several years singing in the church youth choir as a teen.  I come from a musical background and I love music, all kinds. 

After spending so many years honing my musical talent, I have developed an ear for pitch and can quickly tell when an instrument is out of tune.  Unfortunately, I am not as adept at keeping my heart in tune.

Come, Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
-Robert Robinson

I get caught up in my mostly-first-world problems and I lose track of God's grace and love.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I could hear the lies of the enemy seeping into my head.  I could hear him telling me I am worthless, no one cares about me or my problems, I am a bad mother, bad wife, terrible homemaker, etc.  Some of these lies have been on repeat since I was a young girl struggling to fit in at school, struggling to make friends, and spending a lot of time feeling very lonely.  I felt defeated, discouraged, and overwhelmed.  My heart was out of tune.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-but God showed His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
-Romans 5:6-8

The beauty of God's love and grace is that even when my heart is out of tune, He loves me!  So, I look to Him to help me get back in tune.  Prayer and study of His word helps get me back on track and brings my problems into an eternal perspective (where they really don't seem like problems anymore).  
 Blessings,
Meri

10 Things I Want to Teach My Daughter Before She Turns 10

I recently read a post about 10 things we should teach our daughters before they turn 10.  First, there are probably a million things I feel that I need to teach my daughter before she turns 10.  Second, the article was not written from a biblical perspective, so I found that there were some things I disagreed with and a some that were not included and should have been.



So-since my oldest daughter will turn 10 in a little over 1 month (hold me!), I thought I would share my list of things I want to teach her before her 10th birthday.

  1. It's okay to cry.  Okay, this one I did take from the original post.  I am in full agreement that our children, especially daughters, should be taught that genuine emotions are nothing to be ashamed of.  This is important for 2 reasons: 1) I always want to be a safe place for all of my children to share their feelings-good and bad, pretty and not-so-pretty.  2) Understanding the difference between genuine emotion and manipulation is important from the start.  Girls especially need to know that using emotions to manipulate others is wrong. Period.  It is a form of lying, and therefore a sin.  We should be as honest in our emotions as we are in our words. Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool. Proverbs 19:1
  2. Don't be in a hurry to grow up.  I remember my mother telling me this as a child, and I clearly remember thinking she did not understand what it was like to be a kid, because if she did, she would understand why I was in a hurry to grow up!  I am blessed with 2 daughters and this has helped immensely in keeping my oldest (Emma) interested in playing age-appropriate games and with age-appropriate toys.  We have also chosen to home-school our children, this has prevented a lot of the peer pressure issues that girls in Emma's age-group experience at school.  That being said-I have seen a shift in her interests in the past 6-9 months which is a clear indication that she is growing up and expanding her interests into areas that need to be more closely regulated by her father and me.  Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17
  3. You are not the center of the universe.  This is one area where I disagreed with the original post.  The original article implied that girls around this age are and should be the center of their own universe as well as the center of their parent's universe, but not the center of anyone else's universe.  I want Emma to know she is NOT the center of anyone's universe.  And if she is, that person has their priorities wrong.  I want her to know she is deeply loved by me, but loving a child and making them the top priority in your world are entirely different things.  I want Emma to know that God is my #1 priority.  Always. No exceptions.  After God, my husband is my next priority.  He is not equal with my children or after my children.  He is my #1 priority after God.  My children come after my husband and I love them all equally (not the same, but equally).  I feel it would be a disservice to any of my children to teach them otherwise.  It is important to model a biblical marriage and teaching them that my husband is second only to my Savior is part of that process. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5:24
  4. School is important and necessary.  As home-school family, we have a different view of education than many families.  In fact, we are still working on defining our view of education and how it applies to our family.  What I want to teach Emma before she turns 10 is that school requires hard work and is worth the effort.  What I don't want her to believe is that school only happens in classroom with desks, chalkboards, and textbooks.  I want to instill in her a love for learning and an understanding that learning can happen in many different places and in a variety of manners.  There is no "one size fits all" formula for educational success. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
  5. More is not always better-especially when it comes to friends.  Kids at this age, especially girls, can be mean and terrible and cruel.  Girls that she was friends with last year, may not be her friends next year, for no other reason than they just outgrew one another.  This is a difficult and painful concept to explain, especially to an emotional, almost-10-year-old girl.  I want my Emma to understand now what it took me decades to understand-it's more important to have a few (maybe only 1 or 2) good, deep, transparent, and honest friends than to have dozens of "girlfriends".  Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8
  6. Be the friend you want to have.  This goes hand-in-hand with #5 and is something that it took me decades to learn.  If you want to have good friends, you have to be a good friend.  This is a particularly difficult task for young girls who have been raised to think they are the center of the universe (see how that ties back to #3?).  The best way to establish and maintain lasting relationships is to be willing to give more than you get.  Sacrificial love is not just for marriage, it should be the foundation of all relationships.  And don't be mean.  Period.  The best way to stop the cycle of "mean girl" nastiness is to love one another.  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
  7. Don't be ashamed of who you are.  This is another one where I deviate slightly from the original post.  I want to teach my daughter to find who she is in Christ, rather than teaching her to "find herself".  Society places great value on "self", but God places great value on dying to self.  So rather than teaching her to "be herself" or "find herself" I want to teach her to find the person God desires her to be.  He will render to each one according to his works:  to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;  but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:6-8
  8. I am never too busy for you and there is nothing you can't come to me with.  I think all parents desire to have the confidence of their children.  I want my children to know they can always come to me with anything and everything that is going on in their lives.  That being said, I also remember being a child (gasp!) and being terrified of disappointing my parents.  Who am I kidding...even as an adult I don't want to disappoint my parents!  How do we balance setting expectations and being willing to forgive transgressions with our children?  (If you have a method that works-I would love to know).  All I have come up with is transparency.  My husband and I set expectations and boundaries for our children, but we are also quick to recognize and share our short-comings.  It is important that our children know we make mistakes.  Forgiveness is key to modeling a right relationship with God as well as biblical marriage.  If you are a perfect parent, then your children wouldn't need a perfect God. -Sandi Mitchell 
  9.  The internet is not safe.  I desperately want to keep you safe.  It is so much harder for your generation than it was for mine (and I am sure your grandmother felt it was so much harder for my generation than hers).  There is evil in this world, sweet girl, and I want to keep you as far away from it as possible as long as possible. There are people out there that just want to hurt people like you, and the internet provides them the anonymity they need to do that.  Please trust me and please know that the rules we put in place are primarily for your protection.
  10. I pray daily for your husband.  I pray that you and your husband will choose to serve God first and each other second.  I pray that you will marry a man whose heart is fully committed to God.  Be patient.  God has your perfect match. Trust Him. God has a perfect plan for love and marriage between a man and a woman.  The world has tried to warp this into some very disturbing things, but God's truth remains. 
I love you, sweet girl!  I can't imagine my life without you in it!

Blessings,
Meri

Monday, April 20, 2015

Come, Ye Sinners (She Reads Truth-Hymns)

"Jesus answered them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'." 
-Luke 5:31-32

I am sick with sin, diseased with iniquity.  This illness is terminal, leading to certain and eternal death.
But there is hope, my friend!  Hope in the Great Physician.



And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”
-Zechariah 3:4

The accuser tells me I am worthless.  I am too diseased to be saved, there is nothing but death left for me.  But God reveals the lies with His unchanging truth.  He allows us to say to the accuser, "I am sinful, more sinful than even you know.  But I am not condemned!  I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ!".  

Y'all-please don't believe the lies of the accuser.  God not only already knows what you are accused of, but He knows the depth of your iniquity-and He loves you nonetheless.  

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

(Come, Ye Sinners-Joseph Hart, 1759)   

Blessings,
Meri
 

A Woman After God's Heart



I have to tell you about a very special woman. 

She is an excellent wife, more precious than jewels. (Proverbs 31:10)

Her husband trusts her, and his trust in her has led to endless gain. (Proverbs 31:11)

She has always done her husband good, and will continue to do so-all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:12)

She works hard-especially with her hands.  She is a talented seamstress, cook and homemaker. (Proverbs 31:13)

She has always been up early, often the first to rise, to care for her family. (Proverbs 31:15)

She uses her money wisely and works hard to make her purchases fruitful. (Proverbs 31:16)

She is strong.  She makes an effort to stay physically healthy. (Proverbs 31:17)

She works late into the night, until she has completed all of her tasks.  She does not give up! (Proverbs 31:18)

She cares deeply for the poor and needy, often putting their needs above her own. (Proverbs 31:20)

She does not fear for her family in difficult times, she has worked hard to prepare for them. (Proverbs 31:21)

She decorates her home beautifully and is also well-dressed. (Proverbs 31:22)

Her husband is respected and she makes sure she only speaks well of him. (Proverbs 31:23)

She is outwardly and inwardly beautiful.  Dignified and strong. (Proverbs 31:25)

She speaks with wisdom and kindness.  (Proverbs 31:26)

She is never idle, always working to keep her home beautiful and comfortable for her family and friends. (Proverbs 31:27)

She is called blessed by her child and husband. (Proverbs 31:28)



Who is this woman?  She is my mother.  I have been greatly blessed by her all my life.  She has modeled biblical womanhood, marriage and faith to me.  I love her more each day and thank God for her daily.  She is such a blessing to me and my family.

Love & Prayers,
Meri




Sunday, April 19, 2015

Not Home Yet

All I know is I'm not home yet
This is not where I belong
Take this world and give me Jesus
This is not where I belong

-Building 429 (Where I Belong) 

As I watched my husband baptize our youngest daughter today, I was reminded that my time here on earth is only a moment in eternity.  My heart is so full as I consider that all three of my children's names are now written in the Book of Life and they all have a home in Heaven!

This week I have been reminded that this life is fleeting.  My sweet Momma will be having urgent surgery on a 90% blocked carotid artery in her neck next week.  This is big surgery.  Dangerous.  Necessary.  Scary.  I also found out that another sweet friend is undergoing treatment for breast cancer.  Y'all-she is only 47.  Her kids (all 3 of them) are 1 year older than mine.



Our time on earth is not guaranteed.  In fact, it is guaranteed that it will end.  

 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
-1 Corinthians 15:20-22

As I prayed for my Momma this week, I found myself telling God I was not ready to live life without her.  But somehow this time, that request struck me as selfish.  Who am I to ask her to delay meeting her Savior just because I am not ready?  I realized I need to change my perspective!  

We were not made for this earth, friend.  Our Heavenly Father did not send His only Son to die a terrible death on the cross so that our time on this earth would be easier and more pleasant.  Christ did not defeat death and walk out of the tomb after three days so that we could attain wealth and prosperity here on earth.  

I have a dear, sweet friend that walks through life with chronic pain.  This commonality has forged a bond between us that anyone who does not share in this particular trial may not understand.  She often prays "Jesus, come quickly".  I have to admit...it has taken me a while to catch on to this concept.  But as God works on my heart and helps me see life with an eternal perspective, I am praying right along with her!  

 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.
-John 6:27

Friend, God does not promise us health, wealth & prosperity here on earth.  That is something our small, limited, worldly minds make us believe is valuable.  It is a lie of the enemy.  God promises us something so much more.  So much better.  And something that lasts for all eternity.

Blessings,
Meri

Chronic



chron·ic

 (krŏn′ĭk)
adj.
1. Of long duration; continuing: chronic money problems.
2. Lasting for a long period of time or marked by frequent recurrence, as certain diseases: chronic colitis.
3. Subject to a habit or pattern of behavior for a long time: a chronic liar.
 
So here is what I, as a chronic pain sufferer, want you to know about how it effects my life and loved ones:
 
  • Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not real.  It doesn't show up on an x-ray, or MRI, or CT scan.  You can't see it by looking at me, but it's very real.  The pain of fibromyalgia is very, very real.  Over time, it will take it's toll and you may start to see outward physical manifestations of this pain that I live with day in and day out; but, for the most part, there is just no way to show someone on the outside looking in what this pain really feels like.
  • It leads to other health issues.  Living day in and day out with a pain level that rarely dips below 6 on a scale of 1-10 can trigger a variety of medical issues.  Fatigue, depression, and sleep disturbance are common among chronic pain sufferers.  I have also begun to have issues with nausea, RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), and anxiety.  It is hard to tell what symptoms come from the illness and which ones are brought on by the chronic pain.
  • It is unpredictable.  Today I had to leave a wedding we were at because I was in too much pain to stay.  I have missed countless events simply because I was in too much pain to leave the house.  I try to explain to friends and family, try to caution them when making plans that I may have to back out at the last minute, but over time, it becomes frustrating to both myself and those around me.  I want to go out and do things, but my body just does not always cooperate.
  • It is a mountain, not a molehill.  Some days I have plenty of energy to live my life almost like a normal person.  Most days I don't.  Some days I barely make it out of bed and taking a shower sucks the rest of my life-force for that day.  (Unpredictable-remember?).  It is a mountain in my life that I have to decide to climb each and every day.
  • It still hurts-and probably always will.  This is not a cold or the flu.  It doesn't get better with time.  In fact, sometimes it gets worse.  No matter how long I live with this, it still hurts.  Each day is a balancing act for me-juggling pain, chores, school, and life.  At some point each day, I lose my balance and retreat to the couch and heating pad.
  • I only have a finite number of spoons each day.  The Spoon Theory (published by Christine Miserandino of www.butyoudontlooksick.com, who suffers from lupus) basically states that those of us with chronic illness start out each day with a certain number of spoons.  Each activity we do depletes our spoons and when there are none left, we are done.  I am learning to be cautious and more particular about how I use my spoons.
  • It causes me to seek pain relief, not drugs.  The American health care system is rotten to the core-and at its core is pharmaceutical companies.  Narcotic pain medication is one of the only things that helps my pain (and many others), but I am frequently made to feel like an addict seeking my next fix rather than a chronic illness sufferer seeking pain relief.  Not everyone who uses opiate-derived medications is an addict.  Yes, when I don't have pain meds, my pain is worse, but that same thing could be said of blood pressure medication, diabetes medication, etc.  When someone on metformin (a common diabetes medication used to reduce sugar in the blood) doesn't take it, their blood sugar is worse.  Yet, they do not have to sign a contract with the prescribing doctor, wait until they are completely out of medication, drive to the doctor's office to pick up a physical prescription, watch as the pharmacist counts how many days since their last refill (in case they are lying) and pray there are no other complications to get their prescription filled.  This is what I do EVERY MONTH to get pain relief.  Okay.  Getting off the soap box now.
  • Finding a physician can be a challenge.  I am blessed with a wonderful doctor who diagnosed me quickly and has never made me feel like my symptoms are in my head or any less real than someone who has a disease that you can see on an x-ray or blood test.  Not everyone is so fortunate.  I have heard a fair share of terrible tales of doctors who don't take symptoms seriously, won't prescribe medications appropriately, and many other issues.  Again, so blessed and so thankful for my doctor.  I have continued to go to the same physician because of this even though he is about 45 minutes from me now and will be even further after we move.  I have no plans on changing doctors any time soon!
  • Love and patience is what I need.  I know my family gets tired of me not feeling well.  I am sure my friends do as well.  I have even lost relationships because of this illness.  I get tired of it as well.  Sometimes I just don't want to say how bad I am feeling because I am tired of hearing it myself (much less tired of feeling that way!).  I appreciate when friends and family tell me about things they have heard that help other people with fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.  That being said, I tend to keep up on new developments in this area.  Just like someone with cancer or MS or any other life-altering illness, I am continually researching alternative treatments, new medications, and the latest in research related to fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.  If there is a new miracle treatment or cure-I will be one of the first to know!  Fibro-sufferers tend to be a close-knit bunch.  We rely on support from one another because it is hard to find support from the outside, even the medical community.  Be patient.  Be kind.  Just care.  That's it. 
I want to take a moment to thank my husband, who is patient and kind and loves me even when it's really hard.  I am so thankful for him and my family.  I am also thankful for all of my friends, but especially Missy, Ruth, and Tammy who all have first-hand knowledge of living with chronic pain and who are always willing to listen to me and encourage me when I am struggling.  And Megan and Renee who both love me and put up with me, encouraging me daily and walking through this with me when they could easily just walk away instead.

Blessings,
Meri

 
 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friendship: Post 4

"Take two minutes to say 'I was thinking about you today' and, with a heart ready to hear and love-not compare-find out what God has been doing in their life.
-Crystal Stine 

Sometimes we get lost in the hustle and bustle of every day life.  Now that I am in my mid-30s and the mother of 3 busy children, wife of a wonderful husband who works full-time and is completing his MBA in his "spare time", and still working part time (from home), I find that it is easy to plan something on Monday to do "by the end of the week" and the next time I come up for air it's Friday night!

But, friends, it is so important to keep in touch with our friends.  I need my friends (the few close ones I have) and I need to know they are thinking of me....at least every now and then.  Because I need that, I know they need that.  Don't get me wrong-I have in now way mastered this process-but I have taken the first step by recognizing this need in myself and my friends.

It is necessary, especially for women, to have true and trusted friendships in their lives.  Social media is fun and definitely has it's place, especially when friends and family are far apart.  But we must be careful not to replace real, live relationships with virtual ones.  Taken to far, social media can alienate and separate rather than bring us closer.  I know that I still have a very real need for live phone conversations and face-to-face interaction.

The way I am learning to build these personal relationships is by being the friend that I wish I had.  Reaching out, being transparent, going first, and taking time to care about what is happening in the lives of my friends.  It means I have to go outside of my comfort zone sometimes.  I have to face down the possibility of rejection and hurt and tune out the lies of the enemy that tell me I am not enough, I am not wanted.

The result is that I am cultivating relationships that will be lasting and fruitful.  I am creating a stage on which I can launch a ministry of love and caring-I can show the love of Christ through being a good and caring friend and have that reflected back to me.


Take a moment today to let a friend know you are thinking about her (or him).

Blessings,
Meri




Broken Into Beautiful: Post 8





"The righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ."

-Romans 3:22-24-

I have always struggled with measuring up.  I have rarely felt "good enough".  Not for my husband, my parents, in school, at work, as a wife, daughter, mother.  I still struggle daily with the anxiety this causes; always feeling like I need to more, be better, work harder.
Chronic illness has been a humbling experience for me.  There are days that I just can't push through.  I just fall short.  It has been a blessing of sorts, though.  It has helped me to understand Romans 3:22-24 in ways I would not have otherwise been able to.  I can never work hard enough to measure up for God, but I don't have to.  

By His grace, I am good enough.  Nothing else.



"God cares much more about our internal beauty, our reverence and love for Him, than our external beauty." -Gwen Smith

No matter how hard I work to be worthy of Him, I can never be good enough.  But He doesn't want me to be discouraged by that fact.  He has provided a way, through faith in Jesus Christ and love and reverence for Him, so that I don't have to work to be worthy!

Lord, let me be that woman!  A woman who fears You!
God's word is the key to keeping the lies of the enemy from becoming our truth.  Truth is not subjective-God's word has always been and will always be truth.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 
-Romans 2:22-
Comparison is another lie that holds us back from the truth of God's redeeming grace.  I am guilty of this one is so many ways!  We compare cars, homes, jobs, finances, clothes, children-the list could go on and on.  We are always looking to our neighbors, friends, co-workers, and other peers to see if we measure up.  We fail to realize that we are not looking in the right place-up, at what God expects from us, not what the world has or expects.

I often tell my children not to worry about what one sibling may or may not have gotten for Christmas, their birthday, or other gift.  I tell them not to worry about whether or not their siblings had more or less screen time that day, or how many chores they had to do.  I am trying to teach them not to compare.  Not to base their success or failure on what their siblings do or have.  I try to teach them to look to God's word to see if they are "measuring up" and to know that they will never do so with out His redeeming grace.  

Meanwhile, I model comparison (it's a work in progress).  Comparison takes my focus off God.  It leads to feelings of inadequacy and idol worship.  The areas we want to measure up in become the focus of our worship, not God.  It is a dangerous and slippery slope.  Descent is only stopped by refocusing on our Heavenly Father and being grateful each day for His provision.

"The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible."
-DL Moody-

Blessings,
Meri 
 

 
 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Thoughts on Men in Mainstream Media

I have had it on my heart to post about this for a long time.  Still, I start typing with a deep sigh, this could be controversial and I am not a fan of stirring the proverbial pot.



I am going forward with this because I am a daughter, wife and mother of a son.  It matters to me how men are portrayed in mainstream media, especially as a MOB (mother of a boy).  Now, some may say we can just censor what our son watches or is exposed to. 

There are 2 major problems with this:
1) he is almost 13 and it is getting harder to restrict what he has access to, especially at the homes of some of his friends (don't even get started on me about monitoring his friends' homes, too-I have enough on my plate monitoring my own home) and
2) it is nearly impossible to keep all of the violent, sex-filled, emasculating media from being seen.  It is just too rampant, even during the day or during television programming that is supposed to be rated "E" for everyone.  There is sex in drain cleaning commercials for heaven's sake!  How do I censor that?


In the past 2 decades there has been a shift in the role of men in TV programs.  Initially, men were portrayed as strong, capable providers in many programs.  They were bread-winners, they "knew best", they were the kings of their television castles.  But this has changed, men are now often portrayed as inept, bumbling, and incapable of managing household tasks such as balancing a checkbook, caring for their children, grocery shopping, and cooking.  In many programs, it is clear that the wife "wears the pants" in the family and the husband is just there to do her bidding.  (Please note I am not writing in absolutes, not ALL programs portray men this way and not ALL programs in the past were exponentially "better")


This view of men is seeping into our culture.  I was recently at lunch with some co-workers and a couple of them were quite surprised that two of us had husbands who regularly went to the grocery store, cleaned, cooked, did laundry and pumped our gas (I have not pumped my own gas except for a few random occasions in years-I hate pumping gas and my husband graciously does it for me).  The other women we were with stated their husbands/significant others either would not or could not do these tasks.  Now, this is not inherently bad, some men are better at domestic tasks than others, just like women (I am not particularly crafty like many of my SAHM counter-parts....okay, I am not crafty at all).  However, in general, men are portrayed in mainstream media as not being capable of handling these tasks and they need a woman to keep them from becoming dirty, lazy, homeless disasters.



I pray frequently for my son's future spouse.  I pray she will be a godly young woman and will care for my son the way I have.  I pray she will be domestically inclined and able to keep house and cook, or at least willing to learn these things.  However, I am still teaching my son to do laundry, clean, cook and other domestic tasks.  He may have a period when he neither lives in my home nor with his wife and he will need these skills to take care of himself.  He and his future wife may decide she will continue to work outside the home, so he will need to take on a share of keeping their home.  I know there is nothing more precious to a wife and mother of little ones than a husband who takes some of the load of keeping the home.

I am blessed to have a husband who is fully capable of doing all of the domestic chores that are part of running a home (except ironing....we both hate that).  This has been instrumental when I was working full-time and especially since I have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, there are just some days and some tasks I am not able to do and he is always willing to pick up where I left off.

Now, before the feminists decide to roast me on an open flame, I am not suggesting that women subservient to men.  I do believe in marital submission, but that is a subject for another time.  I believe women are fully capable of anything (well, almost anything) men can do.  I am simply suggesting that men and women are different and God purposely designed us that way.  By emasculating and feminizing the men in mainstream media, we are setting a bad example for the next generation who is watching these programs and thinking that is the way marriage and relationships should be.

The role of the husband as provider, protector, and leader of the home has been compromised and replaced by a weaker, sillier, and frankly less desirable man.  This shift is evident not only on television programs, but in our homes and on social media as well.  I cringe when I see women openly berating their husbands on Facebook.  Again, subject for another post, but social media is not the place to air your dirty marriage/relationship laundry. 

When I was first married, my mother gave me some advice on dealing with conflict in our marriage.  I had called her to cry and complain about something I was upset with Rick about.  She calmly asked me if I had taken this issue to my husband first to which I replied, "No, I was too angry to talk to him!".  She then told me she could not talk to me about this until I had taken it to my husband.  She advised me that I should always speak highly of my husband to others and never discuss his shortcomings outside of our marriage (and he should do the same with me).  At first I was appalled, this was ridiculous and archaic, right!?  But as I grew in my faith and our marriage grew more biblical, I began to understand this.  I may only be angry with Rick for a moment, but if all I ever share with my friends and family is these angry moments, what are they going to believe of my husband? 

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
-1 Peter 3:1-2

God designed marriage to be a relationship of mutual love and submission, but we seem to have confused the term "mutual" with "equal" and "equal" with "same".  Men and women should have mutual respect for one another and are equal in the eyes of God.  However, God created us to be different.  We should rejoice in our differences, we should relish our different roles and embrace them, not attempt to make everyone the same.

Please remember these are simply my thoughts on this subject.  I welcome comments, even dissenting opinions, but only in a respectful and productive manner.

Blessings,
Meri

Friendship: Post 3

"One of the most loving and disarming acts of grace is for a friend to whisper 'Me too, but together we can get better'."
-Lysa Terkeurst


One of the most effective tactics of the enemy is isolation.  Loneliness can take a tough situation and make it seem insurmountable.  There is a reason God calls us to corporate worship, we need each other, we need to know we are not alone in what we are walking through.


The beauty of God's creation is that he made us for one another.  He made us to lift one another up in prayer, to share joys and sorrows, to encourage, to support, to love each other-as Christ loves us.  In His perfect plan the love of Christ is shared through our love of one another.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
-John 13:34-35



Jesus does not repeat things by mistake or by chance.  Every word of the gospel has a purpose; He repeats the phrase "love one another" 3 times so that it will draw our attention and imprint on our hearts.  It is important, He wants us to pay attention!
Love is the language that God speaks.  He shows us love not because we deserve it, but because He wants to love us.  We were created to worship Him and He reflects that back in love for us.  

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
-John 15:12

These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
-John 15:17

Love one another in brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.
-Romans 12:10

There are almost endless scriptures telling us to love another.  Christ paid the ultimate price and died on the cross out of love for us-even though we were still sinners.  
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
-John 15:13

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
-1 John 3:16

One of the best ways to show love to a friend is to let them know that you understand where they are.  Maybe you have been there, maybe you are there right now, or maybe you can only imagine the painful place there live is at this moment.  Knowing you have a friend to walk with you through the darkness is a gift from God.  God calls us to lay down our lives for one another.  This does not always mean the sacrifice of your actual life, but He calls us to reach out, do hard things, put each other first.
Don't let your friends walk alone.  Sometimes God uses our friends to do His work in our lives-listen carefully so you don't miss His calling.

Blessings, 
Meri

Monday, April 13, 2015

Friendship: Post 2

"The cure for loneliness is 'going first'.  We need to be the friend we desire to have.
-Jennifer Dukes Lee



I hate being the first to arrive at anything, but I always seem to be the first one ready because I also hate to be late!  Usually I get somewhere first and then wait in my car or somewhere else until a couple of other people have arrived.  I hate to be late for the same reason I don't want to be first-I don't want to garner any extra attention (those of you who knew me growing up may find this hard to believe).

Sometimes going first is scary...but sometimes it is necessary.  I have lost relationships or failed to move forward in relationships by waiting on the other person to make the next move.  I have used the excuse of "if they really wanted to be friends, they would call me" not entertaining the thought that they may feel the same way of me.  This comes from my absolute lack of self-confidence and a serious case of social anxiety/awkwardness.  I am terrified of rejection and I believe most people are as well, at least to some degree.

Recently, however, I have found it necessary and rewarding to be the one to "go first".  Since becoming a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) a few months ago and also not having a car available to use during the week (we have down-sized to 1 vehicle for now), I have found it necessary to reach out to my fellow SAHMs to have interaction for both my children and myself.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher required that we bring in a quote from a famous person periodically.  I would always forget mine and default to the only one I could remember, "A friend is a present you give yourself" (I do not remember the author of the quote, but I believe it was anonymous-feel free to correct me if I am wrong).  While this aggravated my teacher to no end, the quote makes a good point.  We have the power (to some extent) to build or destroy relationships.  Keeping in touch is an important part of friendship and we need to be willing to be the one to reach out.

Going first still scares me and I often wonder if I am annoying people when I reach out, but I push forward because I need friends.  God created us to be social creatures; we need each other to lift us up, help each other out, pray for one another and love one another.

So take a risk, reach out, go first-you won't regret it!

Blessings,
Meri 

A Prayer for My Friend

Dear Lord,

My heart is broken today, Father.  My friend is hurting, physically and emotionally.  I want to take her pain away.  I want to give her peace.  But I know only You have that power, Lord.  You are the Great Physician, healer of hearts and bodies. 

Lord, You know her heart-she has a heart dedicated to You.  She has been such a light in  my life.  I am so thankful for her and her friendship.  She is truly a woman after Your heart, Heavenly Father.  Mother, sister, wife, friend....she embodies the love of Christ in all of these roles. 



I hurt for her, Father.  I can't bear to see and hear the pain she is in.  I can hear her heartbreak in her words, I can see the pain etched on her beautiful face.  Yet through all of this, she praises You, Father.  In the storms of life, she clings to You as her life-saver.  She continues to share Your love with those around her even when she barely has the strength to go on herself.

Heavenly Father, please grant peace and rest to my friend.  Heal her heart and body.  This is my plea to You, Lord.  Take away the pain that I cannot bear to see her in.  Heal her broken heart.  Restore her in the ways only You can.



Father God, I know You are able to heal all wounds.  I also know You have a plan for this sweet friend of mine.  I place my faith in You to grant peace to her and all those around her.  You plan is perfect, even if we cannot understand it right now. 

In Jesus Name, Amen.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Friendship: Post 1

Recently I signed up for an online Bible study on "10 Tips to Be the Friend You Wish You Had".  I have always been challenged in the area of making and keeping friends, especially when it comes to other women.  We are a complicated bunch and I have rarely had a connection with another woman that went beyond casual acquaintance.  I would like to share what I have learned in hopes that it will help someone else who possibly struggles with the same issues as I have.

"It always helps to show our imperfections and sometimes, the best way to be a friend is to scream a frantic 'HELP' and let those around us swoop into our rescue."
-Shannon Martin





Wait....what?!  I don't know about you, but that is the exact opposite of what I have been doing all my life.  I was always taught to "hide my crazy" and "act like a lady" in public.  My mother would admonish me to "be on my best behavior" when at a friend's house or out in public.  

Now-in defense of my upbringing-there is nothing wrong with being on our best behavior, and I have a beautiful, kind, God-fearing mother who loved me dearly and raised me well.  I am also not implying we should all stop teaching our children manners or expecting them to behave properly in public.  However, if this is not properly tempered with honest and open communication at home and encouragement to openly share our most intimate feelings in a safe environment as a child, it can lead to difficulty opening up to friends in adulthood.

In this age of social media and unlimited (and sometimes excessive) sharing of lives over the internet, we are often tempted to show the world our best and hide the rest.  Pictures of happy, smiling families cover marriages that are falling apart.  Check-ins and resorts and vacation spots hide families in crisis.  Again, I am not implying that we all go airing our dirty laundry on Facebook and Instagram, but I think, either inadvertently or by design, we simply want the world to see our best so we only post those things that reflect the good in our lives.

Sometimes, though, we just need help.  We need other women to come alongside us and pray for us, speak kind words to our hearts, listen to us as we crack under the immense pressure most of us face each and every day.  Sometimes we need more tangible help: financial help, child care, meals cooked, help with housework.  How can the people around us know that we may need these things when we are more concerned about putting on a pretty front than being honest about where we really are in life?

I have been blessed, in the past couple of months, to reconnect with some old friends and kindle new friendships with women from church and my community.  I pray over these friends regularly.  I ask God to strengthen the bonds that bind us together.  I pray for guidance on how I can be a better friend.  I am not afraid to be real and honest, and it has been a beautiful transformation.

The truth is, we all need help.  All of us, at some point (probably many times), will need the help of our friends.  So-take a risk, be honest, be transparent.  You may be surprised to learn that the friends you have are experiencing or have experienced the same thing you are going through.  That is God's beautiful and perfect plan!

Blessings,
Meri 






Broken Into Beautiful: Post 7

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." -Genesis 50:20
 
Joseph knew broken.  Sold by his own brothers into slavery, wrongly convicted of assaulting Potiphar's wife, forgotten by the king's cupbearer. He had cornered the market on broken.
But he is also an excellent example of God picking up the pieces of a broken life and restoring them into something even more beautiful than the original.  Joseph was redeemed by God and esteemed by the Pharaoh to a position of power that allowed him to save the lives of many people, including his own family.

God uses, and even needs our broken pieces-past scars, present sufferings, sinful past-to redefine our lives.  We do not have to be defined by these things, but we do have to let God use them to redeem us.  We are a constant work in progress. 
 
 
 
"Our restoration will be complete in the presence of God when we see Him face to face." 
-Gwen Smith
 
"When suffering shatters the carefully kept vase that is our lives, God stoops to pick up the pieces.  But He doesn't put them back together as a restoration project patterned after our former selves.  Instead, He sifts through the rubble and selects shards as raw material for another project-a mosaic that tells the story of redemption." 
-Ken Gire (The North Face of God)
 
What God has in store for us, what God can create from the broken pieces, is far more beautiful than anything we could possibly create on our own.
 
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
-Romans 8:28-