Archives For Prayer

Lupus. It’s a word we all know but a disease most know so little about. I was once a part of the crowd that knew nothing about this invisible illness, and then I found  out I had it! There is no simple way of getting diagnosed. In fact this was a four-year process and I didn’t even realize it! When you keep getting misdiagnosed but have faith that the doctors treating you are accurate then it doesn’t really cross your mind that something much more could be going on. It all started one night, four years ago when I awoke in a panic. My heart was racing, my chest felt so tight and painful that I could hardly breath. I could have sworn I was having a heart attack! I can still remember how scared I was, I’ve never felt that kind of fear before. We went to the ER only to be told that my cartilage in my chest was inflamed. They chalked it up to exercising. I was told to simply take some ibuprofen and I would get along just fine.

feetAround this same time I also had a rash on my torso. I went to several different doctors, all of which gave me a different answer, different medicine and nothing proved to work. I was beginning to feel like I was just imagining things. But, I didn’t really know what else to do other than maybe find a doctor that could not only give me answers, but that I could trust.

During all this time my chest pain would return for days or weeks at a time. Eventually I got to the point where I felt like I couldn’t breath so I went to our new family doctor and he started me out on an inhaler to see how it worked and brought me in for follow-up appointments. I was so appreciative of a doctor that cared for his patients and followed up with them. I wasn’t on the inhaler very long and wasn’t fully convinced that it worked. Then I got pregnant and my symptoms improved, which can happen with Lupus patience.

A few months after having my son my symptoms began to come back along with a new one that I had never seen before. Every time I got cold my fingers would turn stark white and stay that way for a very long time. They would then go painfully numb as the blood worked its way back in. This was a pretty scary thing to see. At first I thought it was just poor circulation but I really felt like something wasn’t exactly right. So, I went in to see my family doctor and showed him a picture on my phone of what my fingers were doing. He immediately called for blood work.

Within a week I had my results back where I was told that they were referring me to a rheumatologist. Everything finally came together at that first appointment. The past four years of chest pains was Lupus, the rash was Lupus, the painful shortness of breath was Lupus, my fingers turning white was Lupus. I didn’t even realize during all this time that I was being misdiagnosed, thankfully I found a doctor that called for the blood work.

This is a problem for so many with Lupus because it’s symptoms mimic that of so many other diseases. No one blood test can diagnose it either. It takes blood work, examining your symptoms and your history. Because of these reasons it can take years before a person is diagnosed, for me it took four years and I didn’t even know it!

So much changed after I received my diagnosis. I am learning my illness and hoping to not only spread awareness so others will not go misdiagnosed, but to spread a little hope and inspiration to others in similar circumstance, because Lupus does not define me!

If you would like to join my team and walk a mile in the annual Lupus Walk or donate to the cause, you can do so by following this link.

Thank you for helping me in my fight with Lupus!

The following post features my amazing sister-in-law Alyssa and her journey through Lyme Disease. Lupus and Lyme can often be mistaken for one another. Although very different diseases, they can have some similar symptoms. We can understand each other in a way that no one else does. She is new to the blogging world and I know that you will truly enjoy her writing and feel inspired just as I do. Show some love! 

For me, the most shocking part of living with Lyme disease stems from how slowly and yet how quickly the disease progressed. My immune system was never the strongest growing lyme-lightup, and I began having some persistent gastrointestinal digestive issues in 2009.  I also recall some weird times when I had lower abdominal or back pain and had to have my ovaries, bladder and kidneys tested, but results never revealed a cause.  The strange symptoms would resurface and then disappear again.  The most frustrating thing was never finding any answers.  I had my gall bladder removed in 2010, which provided no relief.  I struggled with periods of remission and illness for about four years.  I grew accustomed to the symptoms and just assumed that everyone experienced the weird things that popped up every now and then, and the rest of the persistent digestive issues were simply normal for me.  At times, the illness interfered with my classes or my plans, but I was able to push through.

 

I had become accustomed to my illness, but on the other hand, when the Lyme really progressed it was like a whirlwind.  This past summer I began a quick downhill tumble, picking up more and more unexplainable symptoms and growing weaker and weaker as the months flew by.  It started with fatigue and an intense pain near my left rib cage.  Then I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes without my legs turning purple with bright red splotches and an itching sensation so strong that I have to sit down and elevate them.  I started wearing sunglasses indoors because the light shining through windows causes a severe headache behind my eyes.  Sometimes I even have to wear them at night when I’m in the car because the headlights of oncoming traffic have the same effect.  My hands and feet randomly go numb, tingle or burn.  I have chronic sore throat and swollen glands, discolored fingers and brain fog.  Some days I have a hard time remembering anything.  I run a constant low-grade fever and experience hot and cold flashes and night sweats.  All the weird symptoms piled up, but the fatigue, joint and muscle pain are worst of all.  My health was spiraling out of control, and I still wasn’t finding any answers.  By the age of 22, I had seen 10 doctors, several unconventional health consultants, had two colonoscopies, two endoscopies, a cystoscopy, a surgery, multiple hospitalizations and countless ultrasounds, CT scans and blood tests.  I tried changing my diet, eliminating stress, taking health supplements and medications to no avail.

 

My mom’s cousin who has Lyme heard about my health from my grandparents and warned them that it sounded like the disease that had torn apart his own life.  I remembered two tiny itchy bug bites with black centers from a fishing trip in June, and that realization pointed us in the right direction.  Lyme disease comes from contact with an infected tick, and it’s likely those bites I remembered could have been from ticks.  I’ve also been bitten by ticks numerous times growing up.  There is no way of knowing exactly when I contracted the disease as it can lay dormant for years until a trigger causes it to suddenly progress.  I began seeing a nurse practitioner in Edmond because there are NO Lyme doctors in the entire state of Oklahoma.  Skeptics in the medical world refuse to acknowledge the existence of chronic Lyme disease because the blood tests for the disease can show false negatives and aren’t the most reliable.  Therefore, the disease is often diagnosed clinically based only on symptoms.  Lyme, like several other autoimmune diseases such as Lupus and Fibromyalgia, disguises itself in a myriad of symptoms that often reflect other illnesses.  It’s easy to misdiagnose invisible illnesses that cannot be confirmed on paper.  Therefore, many traditional physicians say that chronic Lyme disease does not exist.  They claim that Lyme disease is treated with 10 days of antibiotics.  Yet, so many patients deal with two to three years of severe illness and treatment, and then experience relapse years later and have to begin treatment all over again.  Not only do patients fight the disease, they also fight the belligerent medical community that refuses to acknowledge our suffering.  The longer a person with Lyme disease goes untreated, the more severe the disease becomes affecting the brain, heart and other crucial organs.

 

More doctors in northeastern states recognize and treat Lyme, as the disease originated in Lyme, Connecticut.  Here in the central U.S., it’s a different story.  I happened to get online one day and look up “Lyme walk” or “walk for Lyme” because I was inspired by my sister-in-law’s involvement in the local walk for Lupus.  I found one hit for a Lyme walk, and it was held years ago in the northeast.  The awareness in our area barely exists.  I drive six hours every four months to see a specialist in Columbia, MO.  A few friends of mine see specialists in Nevada or Texas because the number of cooperative physicians in this part of the country is limited.  Thousands of people suffer from chronic Lyme disease as I am.  I can’t speak for them, but I can certainly speak for myself and say that this disease is real and must be acknowledged.

 

After two extremely high-dollar Lyme blood tests, and visits to Linda Lea the nurse practitioner in Oklahoma (who paid out of pocket to travel, train under other Lyme physicians and learn more about the disease) and my specialist Dr. Crist in Missouri, I got my positive diagnosis in December.  Now my disease has progressed so that I have been forced to drop out of school, one semester away from graduating, quit my job and most social activities.  I’ve been on a regimen of rotating strong antibiotics since November.  I also follow a gluten-free, sugar-free diet and take a lot of natural supplements to help my body fight.  No treatment works the same for every patient, and therefore I’m trying anything and everything to get over this illness.  My sweet husband and I got married in May, and wow, this is not what I expected for my first year of marriage.  Everyday is a struggle, but I have certainly gained new perspective from my illness and learned that though I have no choice in the matter, right now I am going to live a purposeful life at a snail’s pace.  I have the option to use this time to smell the roses and the blessings God has given me and to realize the beauty in every accomplishment I make – even if my day’s sole accomplishment was getting out of bed, taking a shower, talking to a friend or being pushed through the park in a wheelchair.

 

 

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Just a few of my daily alarms

Month two is coming to a close and I am about to wrap up my stress fast. For the past four weeks I have had my alarm set for seven different times during the day/night reminding me it was time to pray. I will be completely honest as I say that the 6 AM and midnight prayers were not exactly on schedule. I attempted to do these but after I realized that I was just repeating myself for about half an hour because I continued to fall asleep I decided to change the times a little. My 6 AM prayer was done after I was up and dressed and moving around so that my mind had some time to wake up. The midnight prayer was just when I was getting ready for bed. I decided that it didn’t really matter what times the prayers were just so long as I took those seven pauses in the day to pray.

Here is what I realized during this month. First, it is way easier to actually do all seven pauses when you are home! When you are out and about it doesn’t matter if you try to find a quiet place, somehow they always seemed to be interrupted. Second, I realized how little time I actually spend before God talking to him about something other than a request. The seven prayers each had something different to pray about, so yes there were times when I would make a “request.” However, looking at the themes of the prayers: thankfulness, love toward others, servant’s heart, praying for my husband, praying for my son, praying for protection and praying for healing (for those I do and do not know) I began to spend more time praying for these things and less time being selfish. It is so easy to fall into a routine with our prayer life, and so easy to become selfish in our prayers. Once I began to recognize this I started to focus a little less on the things that I wanted God to answer and more on what else I could pray for during these seven pauses.

Now the question you might be asking yourself is how well did this fast carry out my original goal of tackling stress? Rather beautifully! I can’t tell you how many times I would begin to get stressed out and then guess what would happen? My alarm would go off. Oh, it’s time to pray! So I would take the time to pause and pray and by the time I was done praying my stress level had lowered AND I wasn’t even praying about what was stressing me out! Taking those few moments to pray about a non-related subject was all it took! It’s all because I took the time to be in God’s presence, and wow does that make a difference when you come back to whatever was previously stressing you out!

So will I keep this up now that the month is coming to an end? Probably not to the same extent, I mean I wasn’t even perfect during this month. Yes, I messed up and missed a few prayers during the day. But, my view is forever changed. There is something to be said about being intentional about how we handle stress, our prayer lives and not always coming to God with the “I want” kind of attitude. I will definitely take what I have learned from this fast to heart!

December, oh how I love you! It brings colder weather, Chase’s birthday, snow on occasion and the Christmas season! It really is my favorite time of the year! The joys of bundling up with a good book in hand while the fireplace sends off it’s warmth, decorating the Christmas tree, shopping for loved ones in wonderfully decorated stores that are playing those catchy Christmas tunes. And you can’t forget all the fun Christmas movies that are always a great addition to this time of year! There is only one thing that puts a damper on this glorious season… STRESS! We all get stressed from time to time. Those packed shopping malls can be the cherry on top of a stressful sundae. You all know what I am talking about… the crowded walk ways that no one can ever get through without feeling squished. Then there are all the other stresses that can come around this time… budgeting for presents. We all want to be able to afford to give everyone we love something nice for Christmas, but on a nice fee-sable budget The last thing anyone wants is to give a gift that screams budget.

While most of these things are never really that big of a deal, when the moment comes that we feel overwhelmed the stress has finally come and everything is a big deal! Here is a confession… when I am stressed chocolate and I are best friends-especially Reese’s peanut buttercups! I know, this is a terrible habit to form. It’s either the chocolate or crying. Well this month I am attempting to tackle this issue! Month two of my Searching for Simplicity began this week and I am doing the stress fast. Yes, I am well aware that I can not prevent from stressful situations coming my way, but that is not the point of this fast. This month is all about being intentional in how we respond to stress, making it a habit to run to God in prayer instead of our typical responses.

This fast is all about setting aside seven times in my day for prayer, praying over specific subjects during each prayer time. Currently my alarms are set for midnight, 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.! Yes that’s right, my alarm is set for midnight! It won’t be easy, but already in the first week I am amazed at what I have begun to learn about myself, but that I will share with you another time!

 

Photo Credit: Allie Caulfield

Month one, the clothing fast has now come to a close. I can’t believe how quickly it came and went. I’m looking back on those four weeks at all that God taught me and I am thankful. I honestly wasn’t really sure just how much I was going to get out of a clothing fast. I thought that I would only be revealed that I have more than I need. While this was definitely a point that was brought to my attention He didn’t stop there. I learned a lot about myself and I was reminded of points that I had allowed myself to forget. Here are a few things that I learned during my clothing fast.

  1. Tic-Toc Goes the Clock. I did not realize until this fast that I spend WAY too much time deciding what I want to wear. I will stand in my closet just staring at my clothes (confession, sometimes I get tired and I sit on the closet floor). My problem is that I over think it– I might get cold in this… I just wore that last week… that shirt just isn’t that comfortable… and on it goes. During the fast you know what I did? I got up, grabbed one of my seven designated clothing items and BAM! That was that! No fuss, no wasting time, just quick and to the point.   

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    My closet overwhelmed me the first day after this fast!

  2. Cha-Ching. Many items in my closet have been passed on to me, but not all. The point that came to me is just how much money I wasted. Think about it, I am sure that I am not the only one who has multiple pairs of jeans, several cardigans and numerous pairs of shoes. Every item has a price tag. Some might have been on sale… maybe $5 and others more pricey. No matter how you look at it, every item in my closet was money out of my pocket. (This isn’t to say that new items can’t ever be purchased, just put a little thought into it and make sure it is an item that will be used many times and the money would be worth spending.)
  3. The What If’s. I have countless items that I have not worn for at least a year just hanging there, taking up space and getting rejected every morning  Why do I keep these items that I know I have NOT worn and probably will NOT wear? I admit I tend to hold on to it because maybe, just maybe I will wake up one day and want to wear it… it’s the clothing “what ifs” that lurk in my closet! I’ve decided that if it has been at least a year and the clothing has gone unworn then it is time to part our ways.. no more what ifs!
  4. Dress to Impress. When I find myself having trouble picking out something to wear I realized, am I dressing to impress…. myself or everyone else? Does it really matter what other people think of my outfit? No, all that matters is what I think of myself and if I put together an outfit that reflects my style and personality then that is what is important.
  5. Use and Reuse. Confession: I re-wear my jeans a couple of times before I wash them. Yikes, I said that out-loud! I did this even before the fast. But it never occurred to me that this was remotely possible for shirts/cardigans. Apparently it is. Does anyone notice? Nope. Now obviously clothing does get dirty and smelly, but unless that is the case people have no idea. I’ll be honest, I do not intend on continuing this with my shirts now that the fast is over, but I definitely learned that this was possible and the world won’t end.
  6. Just a little Stain. I’m messy! I learned this about myself early in life but it was definitely amplified during this month when I continued to spill food on my very limited wardrobe. I think it is time for me to face the facts and make a conscious effort to be more careful when I eat.
  7. Take Notice. I think it is human nature for us to think that other people think about us more than what is actually true. The fact of the matter is that people think about me and my wardrobe far less than I would tell myself is the case… like when I am picking out clothing for the day and I tell myself that I just wore that last week, the truth is i am probably the only one who will remember that! And honestly if people do notice your clothing it’s not very often someone is going to tell you that you just wore that item… no one said that to me and I had bright, pretty obvious shirts that I continued to repeat.
  8. Less IS More. I survived an entire month on seven articles of clothing and you know what I realized? The world continues, nothing fell apart, and I am satisfied with far less than what I have. The closet full of clothing is a blessing that I do not take lightly anymore, but I can live on a fraction of what is in that closet and be satisfied.
  9. Give More. With this new realization that I can have a wardrobe made up of far less than what I actually have and the numerous items going unused in my closet I want to give away these items more often. Why hoard my clothing for the what ifs? Instead give them to someone who needs them more than I do. I am also finding myself wanting to simply reduce my wardrobe to find a more simple closet not filled with excess. This closet will be purged!
  10. Carry on Luggage. We went on vacation during this fast and you know what I figured out? I always OVER pack! There is simply no reason for me to bring as much stuff as I usually do. Toss a few items in a bag and be done with it! Hand washing an item in a hotel sink if it gets dirty is not the worst thing and it certainly will not ruin the vacation. Less luggage is very freeing on a trip!

Month one has come to a close and now it’s time to begin the next fast of this journey. Month two- the stress fast, spending seven times a day in prayer and reflection to focus less on stress. This begins on Monday!