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The following is a guest post by Mandy Karo. I first met Mandy in college when we both joined Pi Zeta Phi during college. After hearing about my diagnosis Mandy reached out to me as she is also living with Lupus. I am so thrilled to have her share her story. She has wonderful insight, show her some love! 

Middle school is a tough time for most kids. When I was in eighth grade, I was in the midst of a very difficult transition with my two best friends. We had been inseparable in fifth, sixth, and seventh grade. I remember the gym teacher saying weMandy's guest post were “joined at the hip.” But in eighth grade, they were drifting away from me and becoming a part of the popular girls group. For a young teen this felt like the ultimate abandonment and rejection. I remember feeling a lot of loneliness, stress, and anger. It was in the middle of this drama that something much worse was piled on to make my teen years even harder. I was diagnosed with Lupus.

I had been having odd symptoms for a while. In sixth grade I started having strange stomach aches. The doctors thought I might have ulcers so I had to have a stomach x-ray. It was awful—the stuff you have to drink so they can x-ray you is disgusting! There were no ulcers found so life went on. In seventh grade I began feeling tired in the afternoons. But what happened in eighth grade was what led to my diagnosis. I started getting purple spots on my feet and ankles, especially when I was upset or stressed out. My feet and ankles would also swell up. At first we thought maybe I was allergic to the laundry detergent my mom used but switching it didn’t help. The worst time was when one of my teachers accidentally ran over my ankle with a TV cart. The purple spots showed up and I got so swollen I couldn’t walk on that foot. It hurt to put shoes on.

When we showed my family doctor the spots, she was perplexed so she looked up what it could be. She named off a number of possibilities and one of them was Lupus. I really had no idea what Lupus was, but I had heard the name before, and I knew it was some sort of serious disease. I started to cry. We were sent to Children’s Hospital in Denver to see a rheumatologist. They did blood work and the doctor asked me a few questions about my symptoms. Then just like that, he told me I had Lupus, gave me some packets about it, and prescribed medications for me to take. It felt odd that it was so quick. Even my parents continued on acting normal. Didn’t they know that I was just diagnosed with an awful, potentially life-threatening disease? Shouldn’t we all be crying or yelling or something? I know that they were just trying not to freak me out. Inside they were scared too.

I’ve been diagnosed with Lupus for thirteen years now. I deal with fatigue, unexplained fever, swollen joints or muscles, sensitivity to the sun, susceptibility to sickness, and the spots (which are called purpura and are caused by bleeding underneath the skin). The medication I take has helped me in controlling the flares. I know I am actually very lucky because many people with Lupus have much worse symptoms, and thankfully my symptoms are not life threatening.

There are a lot of questions that come with having Lupus. Will my symptoms get worse? Will I be able to have a healthy pregnancy? Will I have the energy for a full time job? Will I have the energy to raise children? Will the men I date be able to handle the fact that I have Lupus or will it make them want to head for the hills? The real question becomes, what do I do with all of these fears and anxieties?

When any sort of fear comes into our lives, no matter what it is, we must remember the power of God. God is bigger and stronger than any scary thing that looms in our path. Just imagine the universe in its incredible vastness and remember that God created it! That is power. Then remember that he loves you. When something bad happens in life, we might be tempted to ask if God loves us. If God loves me, why did he allow me to get a disease? But that question is focused on the physical, and God focuses on the spiritual. Yes, bad things happen on this earth. But God allowed his son to die for us in order that we might have a new life. That is love. This world is temporary, and we must use the struggles that come with it to strengthen our relationship with God.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” John 1:12 (NIV)

This is such a great song, Eli and I have listened to it several times this morning. I love singing along to it because it puts me in such a great mood. No matter what kind of a day you might be having you are loved by God and that surpasses any trials we might face! I am God’s child so He is with me in all things!  Remember who you are in Christ!

Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Gray 

Verse 1:
When I lose My way,
And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see,
Is who I don’t wanna be,
Remind me who I am.
In the lonliest places,
When I can’t remember what grace is.

Chorus:
Tell me once again who I am to you.
Who I am to you.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to you.
That I belong to you.
To you.

Verse 2:
When my heart is like a stone,
And I’m running far from home,
Remind me who I am.
When I can’t recieve your love,
Afraid I’ll never be enough,
Remind me who I am.
If I’m your beloved,
Can you help me believe it.

Chorus:
Tell me once again who I am to you.
Who I am to you, Woh.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to you.
That I belong to you.
To you.

Bridge:
I’m the one you love,
I’m the one you love,
That will be enough,
I’m the one you love.

Chorus:2x
Tell me once again who I am to you.
Who I am to you.
Tell me lest I forget who I am to you.
That I belong to you, Woh.
To you.3x

“My sheep recognize my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (MSG) 

Don’t you just love when you are sitting in church listening to the preacher and then suddenly you feel like God says  “hey, this point is for you.” Every time that happens it always comes in loud and clear and that is exactly how last Sunday was within the first five minutes! Have you ever been praying for something and your waiting for some big gesture to happen to confirm that its God speaking to you? Well Sunday this particular point was brought to my attention… over sensationalizing God’s presence. While God can do big gestures to speak to us He doesn’t only work this way, sometimes it is something so simple yet just as real and meaningful but speaking to us just the same.

Since this has been brought to my attention I have tried very hard to be intentional about being aware of those smaller moments where God is speaking to me. He is with me everyday, I can feel His presence in my life and I just have to take a moment to see all the little things He says/does throughout the day and those moments are just as important and significant as the times when He does something “big!”

Photo Credit: Travis Isaac

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV) 

The worship song I picked for today by Gungor is You Have Me and not only is the song absolutely beautiful but so is the meaning behind it. Life can be a bumpy road sometimes but God never leaves us, He is always there holding onto us. I love the chorus how it talks about God is always faithful and good, we can always count on Him!

You Have Me by Gungor 

[verse:]
Out on the farthest edge
There in the silence you were there
My faith was torn to shreds
My heart out of balance
And you were there

[chorus:]
Always faithful
Always good
You still
Have me
You still have my heart

[verse:]
I thought I had seen the end everything broken
But you were there
I’ve wandered at Heaven’s gate
I’ve made my bed in Hell
But you were there still

[chorus]

You have me
You have me
You have my heart completely (6x)

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a (NIV) 

While searching for a song for todays post my husband suggested this band. I hadn’t heard them before but really enjoyed them once I listened to a few songs. This song talks about the “beautiful things” God has made. I love in the chorus when it talks about God making beautiful things from the dust. It really is amazing to think about God being able to make us from dust! The chorus goes on to talk about the beautiful things He makes out of us. Our God is truly incredible, we will never completely comprehend His power. But, one thing we can do is look at all of the beauty in His creation and worship Him!

Beautiful Things by Gungor 

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new