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!

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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!

Have you ever read a book and when you were done you put it down and thought, wow, that totally just wrecked my life! Well that just happened to me! Recently my friend Michelle Clark wrote a post, One of those Christians, about her journey of reading and fasting through the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker. After hearing all that she learned from this book and how highly she talked about it I decided I should check it out. All that I have to say is WOW! I finished the book in a week and realized this was one of those life changing books! We all have our share of clutter, excess and stress. Boy does this book really make you take a look at these areas and realize that you can do something about it. I knew when I put the book down that there was no way I would be able to simply read this book and just walk away, l was inspired! I decided to take Jen’s book to heart and follow in her example. I am on a seven month journey to seek simplicity, growth and change. I call it Searching for Simplicity.

Jen’s book focused on seven areas of excess. She picked one area of focus a month and then fasted from seven things in that area. Her seven focuses were food, clothing, waste, media, possessions, spending and stress. So as of November 1st I started month one of the seven month-long fast. Which area did I pick to focus on first? Clothing. Why is it that I have a closet full of clothes and there are mornings where I will complain of nothing to wear? Why is it that I can pick out a shirt only to change saying that I wore it recently, assuming that people truly pay that much attention to my clothes. How often can I so easily walk by a shirt in a store and see that it is on sale for only $5 and think, oh, that’s a good price, and it’s cute! I can honestly say that sometimes I will walk away without buying and other times I find the deal just good enough to buy, as if I need anymore shirts. The sad thing is how many items of clothing I keep in my closet for the “just in case.” I’m sure you know what I am talking about, it’s that shirt that you wore only once or twice but maybe if you find the right pair of pants you’ll wear it again. Or, that pair of jeans that doesn’t really fit right anymore but you stash it away in case you find yourself able to wear them. The kicker are the shirts that I have and I know have been in my closest unworn for more than year, why am I still keeping these?! 

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My seven articles of clothing

Thus begins month one of seven. In doing this clothing fast this means that I can only pick seven articles of clothing to wear for the next four weeks, SEVEN! This was not easy! That means seven articles to wear for the next four weeks, whether I’m awake, asleep, out and about or at home… SEVEN, that’s it! I have picked my articles, and yes I have swapped and switched a couple of times until the final decision was made. So here it is people, my seven articles of clothing that you will see me wear time and time again this November:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of sweatpants
  • Green LifeChurch.tv Financial Operations t-shirt
  • Grey blouse
  • Orange t-shirt
  • Pink long sleeve shirt
  • Multi-color cardigan

Here is what I am not counting against my seven articles. Shoes, I have picked two pairs of shoes to wear during this month, a pair of Vans and a pair of winter boots. Also, undergarments are excluded from this number because that’s just an essential. The last and final item that I do not count is a coat. Jen did not wear a coat, however I am making this exception in regards to my Lupus. One of my struggles I have is my fingers turning white and numb when I am cold and the doctor told me it is important to keep my core warm to help with this issue. So, I tossed in a cardigan to wear for the chilly days but if it gets cold I will wear a coat while outside. I have approved this with the “council” which is my two friends who are like accountability partners during this journey, which Jen also had. I don’t think that a coat on a small occasion will keep me from growing, but also I will only be using the coat if I honestly need it.

So yes, you will be seeing me repeat my outfits on a pretty regular basis this month. And yes, I will probably be more aware of how often I wear a shirt than everybody else. But, I am excited to hear all that God has to teach me during these next seven months. Sometimes the greatest lessons happen during those moments when we are the most uncomfortable, and that is what I intend to do during my search for simplicity!