One of the first Sundays back to school in September, Kris and I went to Exodus church as we do most Sundays. The pastor, as he usually does, asked us to repeat after him some key phrase that was critical to his sermon, necessitating audience participation. I followed along, repeating the phrase and letting the words slip off my tongue rather carelessly, ignorant of the effects of the words I was uttering.
"Jesus, pour out Your spirit on me."
Over the next few weeks, we uttered these words throughout the church services and were encouraged to repeat these words throughout the days and weeks to come, replacing "me" with family and friends, coworkers, our enemies, local churches, civic leaders, etc.
What I presumed to be careless utterances turned into Truths that would come alive over the next few months as Jesus lead me to a journey of radical growth and transformation. Jesus would come to pour out His spirit on me, but certainly in ways that were entirely unexpected.
Let me explain...
On Wednesday, September 29, 2011, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, a disease that effects your GI tract, causing inflammation and various other problems. The symptoms vary from person to person. I have inflammation particularly in my colon (also called colitis) and my illeum, which is where the large and small intestines connect (to learn more check out the wikipedia page). My Crohn's disease is pretty mild, and flares up largely in response to stress. I've decided to go gluten-free, and when I'm having problems in particular, I eat very mild foods such as rice, fruits, plain chicken, potatoes, eggs, etc. In addition, I've recently been told that I have mytral and tricuspid regurgitation in my heart as well as recent boughts of tachycardia and shortness of breath. I've had a bacteria in my stomach that has been treated twice with anti-biotics over a period of 3 months and doesn't seem to want to go away. This particular bacteria causes me to constantly feel tired, weak, sick, bloated, nauseous, etc. And if it's not treated, can become life-threatening over time (although I'm totally fine because I'm being monitored!) And in case that wasn't enough for you all, I'm fighting a sinus infection and found a dime-sized lump on the left side of my chest (ended up being nothing! YAY!).
Oh, and my truck broke down...twice.
The last few months have been anything but easy. Moments of rest are cherished, 'good poops' are rejoiced upon, and the feeling of fullness is typically fleeting as my new diet abruptly stole most of the things I once loved to eat (namely Chalupas). My body doesn't always feel good, in fact, most of the time I feel pretty terrible. My heart beats too fast. My stomach hurts way too often. I have to go to the bathroom at least 5x more than the average person. I take 13 pills a day (it was 18 when I was on my anti-biotic). I've been to the ER twice, the hospital 3 times and to countless doctors appointments. I've missed upwards of 20-25 classes this semester. Missed two tests, a duty, 3 office duties, and multiple days of work. I've had tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, food bills, and prescriptions, lab work, procedures, you name it, I've probably had it. Colonoscopy, endoscopy, heart echo, 2 EKG's, ultra sound, 24-hr holter monitor, at least 7 sets of blood work, 1 IV (will be 2 after the endoscopy). I think I could fill this entire blog with the happenings of this past semester of my life.
There are many times when I would just cry because I wasn't sure what else to do. I would call Kris at 1am, crying because I thought I was going to fail both my test and presentation the next day (ended up with a 98 on the test and a 90 on the presentation -- to Him be the Glory). I would cry because I was happy, scared, sad, burdened, overwhelmed, stressed. Someone would ask me how my day was or how I was feeling and I would fight through tears with a quick 'not well'. Friends and family would tell me how strong I was, but the truth is, I felt entirely weak. My pride caught up with me and broke me down. My scheduled plans erupted. And I was left crying out to Jesus for some serious, real help.
I say all of these things not to complain but in Truth. However, I also must say that these past few months have been incredibly JOYFUL.
My boyfriend has been so incredibly supportive. He's put areas of his life on hold in order to devote his time and effort to doing whatever he can to make my life easier during this time. He has loved me a supported me in ways that I didn't even know I needed support, and I can't thank him enough. And his mommy makes me delicious, home-cooked meals that I can eat, and sends me cookies. My family has been at every doctors appointment, every procedure, seen almost every poke and prod, and pooled their resources to keep me eating healthy and getting the medicine I need. I'm so blessed by them and their unconditional, supportive, empathetic love for me.
I've realized over the past few months that I don't deserve good health.
In fact, I don't deserve easy.
I don't deserve food, or medicine, or medical care, or incredible support systems, or life.
In reality, I deserve death because I am (like all people) an incredibly sinful person (Romans 6:23).
God sent His son Jesus to die a brutal, painful death on a cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. And because of His death, I am alive and well. I am able to give and receive love and support and medicine and all these wonderfully special gifts that He has provided me with.
I may not be able to eat EVERYTHING I want, but I have food in abundance. I have the resources to get the medical attention and prescriptions I need. I have people that love me. I have bosses and professors that are understanding and empathetic. I may be sick but I am ALIVE.
My most consistent and relentless prayer is that my situation, my struggles will be used to glorify the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:13). That through easy times and hard times, Glory can be brought to His name, and Truth can be shared.
And it is in these times of strife that the Lord presents Himself most clearly to us. He has shown me that He will bring me to, into, through and out of each and every battle in my life, and use it ALL for His good. He will not abandon me or forsake me, and when I cry out to Him or even utter words carelessly, HE ALWAYS HEARS ME.
I've learned that the Lord does, in fact, give you more than you can handle. Not because He is cruel, but so that we MUST rely on His omnipotence and sovereignty. In our weakness, His strength shines so fervently (2 Corinthians 12:19).
Thank you all for your love and support during this time in my life. Sometimes it feels as though it is never-ending, but I KNOW the Lord is good, and that He will give me peace and calm in due time.
So for now, I pray with full intention and without reserve...
"Jesus, pour out Your spirit on me."
1 Corinthians 2:6-16 [Wisdom from the Spirit]
2 Corinthians 1:3-11 [The God of All Comfort]
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Philippians 4:11-13 [Contentment in all situations]
John 3:16-17 [Gospel Truth]