Faithfully Thinking: Dear Fellow Depression Sufferers, extend grace to those who simply don’t understand

When you wake up in the morning you feel it. A dark cloud hanging over you that you did not place there. There is a sense of foreboding that something bad is about to happen. You find yourself on edge, constantly in a state of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” The phone rings and you jump. There it is. The bad news you were dreading.

Only it isn’t bad news. It’s simply a family member calling to say “hey” and you don’t have to worry. Whew. You breathe a sigh of relief. Calm settles over you.

 For five minutes that is because you suddenly start to think about how maybe that news isn’t bad but worse news could come soon. Then you begin to list off all the bad things that could happen.

And your heart rate? Now it’s really picking up.

“Is that normal?” you think. “Should my heart be doing that?

“Good grief. Stop it,” you tell yourself. “Everything is fine.”

And it is fine.

For five minutes before the cycle starts all over again and continues until the end of the day when you collapse in mental exhaustion.

Such is the life of someone who lives with anxiety and depression. I am someone who lives with anxiety and depression. Is every day of my life like this? No, thank God and because of God, it is not.  Does my mind switch to worry after worry every day, all day? Again no. Some days are like that, though, and it’s a very scary and out-of-control feeling.

It has taken a lot of prayer and a lot of lifestyle changes to help me deal with anxiety and depression and for a short time, I also took medicine. For now, I am taking CBD oil and it is helping (even if the one I have right now is a little too concentrated so I need one that won’t make me so sleepy). I am also practicing mindfulness and positive thinking, telling myself as many times as I need to do in a day that I am fine and that whatever I am anxious about is something I can handle with God’s help.

I just want to give a heads up to those of you dealing with anxiety and depression.

Inevitably some well-meaning person, usually at church, will say to you, “What are you so down about? You have a wonderful life! Wonderful children/grandchildren, a roof over your head, food on the table. You have nothing to be depressed about! Jesus is your Lord, be glad and rejoice!”

If they haven’t yet, don’t worry. They will.

It can be hard not to be angry with the people who seem so flippant about your mental health. It can be hard not to scream “But you don’t understand!  I don’t even understand. The sadness and dark clouds are just there even when I know they shouldn’t be!”

Oh, how I have wanted to scream that so many times. I have wanted to tell them how clueless they are and how hurtful it is to tell me to simply “cheer up” when I am trying so hard to do just that. And if I hear them recite Philippians 4:6 (Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God) one more time like it is an admonishment and not an encouragement, my head might just explode right off my neck.

This week I had to remind myself of something and I want to offer it as advice from one depression sufferer to another — extend grace to those people who encourage you to not be anxious.

They don’t mean to hurt us with their comments. They don’t mean to be rude (most of them don’t anyhow). They don’t mean to dismiss our feelings. They mean well. They really want to help but they simply don’t know how. They think they are being encouraging and kind. They think you simply need to watch a comedy, walk in nature and listen to worship music and the depression will be gone. Why? Because that’s how it’s worked for them.

They don’t have a clinical depression they can’t explain.

They have a slump in their mood and for them what works is journaling and yoga and “centering” themselves.

Sometimes that even works for us hardcore sufferers, but most of the time we need much more. We may need medicine, we may need counseling, or we just might need to stop being told “to perk up”, “shake it off,” “get into nature,” “sing a song,” or “read your Bible.”

However, all of those things can help, and the Bible is needed so when someone says one of those things to you, thank them.

Thank them for their attempt and move on. If they condemn you for not cheering up the way they think you should, then maybe you can offer them a comment about how their advice is no longer needed, but otherwise, simply thank them because most of the time they mean well and some of the time their suggestions might at least take the edge off it all.

Faithfully Thinking: God is our shelter

It’s been one of those weeks, or I guess two weeks.

One day a couple of weeks ago I learned that a former classmate of mine had passed away.

A few weeks before that, a good family friend passed away and last Saturday we attended a memorial service for her.

While working on edits for my recent book, my husband called to tell me a friend of ours, who we hadn’t seen in years for various reasons, had passed away in a house fire. A half an hour later a fellow writer learned that a child in her Sunday School class had been removed from their home because they were being abused.

When bad things happen, I want to pull a bubble or shelter up around me and hide inside that shelter so nothing else bad can reach me. Sadly, that’s not possible. The bad news will still get through and defile that clean, stress-free space I tried to create.

What is possible and real is that God can climb inside that shelter with me and while he may not take the bad news away, he can hold me and walk through the grief, heartache, or fear that stems from the bad news. God never promised us a life free of sorrow or trials, but he did promise that he would be there with us to shelter us in his comforting arms.

Psalm 27:5 For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock.

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Faithfully Thinking: The need for us all to show more grace and less judgment

Do you know what it means to judge not lest you be judged?

In my simplistic explanation, it means that you shouldn’t judge someone when you don’t know all the facts about their life because eventually, someone will do the same thing to you.

Is that fair? To be judged on the assumptions of others instead of facts?

Two weeks ago, someone my dad knew passed away from Covid. Then her son-in-law died from it as well. You would think that in a time of grieving, there would have been more compassion and less judging. Yes, there was compassion, there were condolences offered, there was comfort without judgment even offered. But there were also comments, on a Facebook post announcing the death, where the family could see the comments, about how the people should have been vaccinated.

Were they vaccinated? I haven’t got a clue and the people making the comments probably don’t know either. They were assuming.

If they were unvaccinated maybe they had a legit concern, whether medical or otherwise, about the vaccine, but the people commenting didn’t care. They wanted to sound superior. They wanted it to sound like they made the right decision, and the other person made the wrong decision and therefore deserved to die.

Well, if we are going to go that route then maybe the people who made those comments will die one day and someone will say to their family “well, should have stopped smoking,” instead of “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Maybe someone will say, “Welp, they deserved to die, they drank too many beers a week.”

Is this where we are right now? Where we judge and assume when someone dies? Where we judge their whole lives based on decisions they made that we don’t agree with?

I can answer these questions by saying yes, that is where we are at.

As a society, we have lost compassion.

We have lost understanding.

We have lost the ability to extend grace.

We have lost the ability to see a situation and not project our personal experiences on it.

We have lost the ability to see in anything other than black and white.

We don’t know what truth is anymore, but we decide to adopt one for ourselves and then try to force our truth on others.

As Christians, we believe Christ is the truth. We believe the Bible is the truth, but I do not believe God wants us to force that on anyone. If someone does not accept that our faith is true, do we look at them in judgment? Do we ostracize them and believe we are better than them? Some of us do, but we shouldn’t. God gave us free will and part of that free will is being able to decide for ourselves how we feel about him and what we believe.

If someone doesn’t believe the same as us politically, should we believe we are better than that person?

What about if they make medical decisions differently than us? We can express our concern for them, but once we’ve done that, it’s time to step away and let them live their lives.

I know people who read my blog know that I am unvaccinated for a legit medical reason, but I want you to know that even if I was vaccinated, I would disagree with judging the unvaccinated. I may be vaccinated in the future and if I am, I absolutely refuse to sit and judge those who don’t vaccinate, the same way I vow right now to not judge those who have chosen to vaccinate themselves.

I am not impressed with those who get vaccinations and brag about them or try to shame those who made a different decision. I am more impressed with those who get vaccinated and move on with their life. No matter who I am “impressed” with, I don’t want to be the person who judges a person based on their personal decisions, including their decision to brag about getting a vaccine, or whatever I think is a little strange simply because I wouldn’t do it.

Some people make decisions I think are poor, and if there are drugs or alcohol or abuse involved, the decisions are poor, but I need to do my best to understand why the person has made the decision they have. It’s not always because they are being purposely selfish. Sometimes people are being selfish in their decisions, but many times they are making a decision because they feel it is right, not because they are trying to hurt someone.

My wish for this next year is that we extend more compassion, that we judge less, that we hate less, that we stop bullying people who don’t believe like we do, especially when a person is deep in grief and hurt. You have heard the saying “Don’t kick a person when they are down,” but that is what is happening these days. When a person is grieving, they are being told they deserve to grief. When a person is frightened, they are being told they are stupid for being frightened. When they are hurting, so many people are standing on their wound.

I really hope that we will start showing more compassion this year and try to understand others just as we would want to be shown compassion and understood. Instead of judging someone, I urge us all to talk to them, understand them, or at least say to ourselves, “That’s their decision, not mine and they have their own reasons for making that decision. I will not assume what their reasons are based on their political party, their faith, their social media statements, or anything else.”

I hope you know that I am preaching to myself with this post as well. I need to have more compassion and understanding and it’s something I truly want to work on in 2022.

How about you? Will you join me in this effort?

Faithfully Thinking: Ought’n we be prepared for the best too?

A lot of people tend to think of the worst outcome for a situation they are in. We call those people pessimists and I am one of them.

I try not to be, really, but for some reason I always find my brain hopping to what could go wrong instead of what could go right.

I would imagine that even the most optimistic people frequently find their minds bouncing to the “worst what-if scenarios” even when they tell others not to do the same.

A quote from Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery reminded me that we humans often focus on the possible bad we may face, rather than the possible good.

Eliza shook her head. “Doctors always talk like that to keep people cheered up. I would have much hope if I was her. It’s best to be prepared for the worst.”

“But oughtn’t we to be prepared for the best too?” pleaded Anne. “It’s just as likely to happen as the worst.”

As most of you know (because I’ve posted about it several times) I was recently in the hospital with Covid (and, yes, I will eventually stop talking about it). In the days before I went to the hospital, my thoughts were filled with worst-case scenarios, but I kept trying to push those scenarios away. I truly did not think I would end up in the hospital and I thought if I did, I would be sent home quickly. Even when I imagined something bad happening, my brain would never allow me to go to the worst, worst-case scenario for Covid, which is one, being vented and two, dying.

I had a lot of negative what-ifs in my brain during that time, but I promise I was doing my best to replace them with some positive what-ifs. I was just too tired and sick to really conjure up the positives, I suppose. A pastor’s wife and my mom helped fill me with some of the positives, reciting or texting me verses from the Bible.

One of those verses, Philippians 4:8, helped me immensely.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

After that, I tried to focus on happier thoughts, including focusing on me getting out of the hospital.

On the day the nurse was about to turn my oxygen off, letting me know I no longer needed it, I panicked and started asking what if I couldn’t breathe or my oxygen dropped. Would they put the oxygen back on? The nurse said she would if any of that happened, but she didn’t believe it would. I apologized and told her I always worry about the worst.

She said she understood because she often does the same but has had to remind herself to focus on the positive what-if questions.

“What if everything goes fine? What if I don’t have any issues? What if I do better than expected?”

“We all need to focus a little more on the good that can happen than the bad,” she told me. “Me included.”

Fifteen years ago, I was pregnant with my son, and every time I went to the midwife, I would ask her about all the bad things that could happen.

During one appointment she looked at me and said, “Lisa, why don’t you start thinking about what good will come from this pregnancy instead of what bad can happen during it.”

Oh. Well, there was a new concept.

I worked on it, but here was, and is my problem, I feel like if I don’t learn and know about the bad things that can happen, I won’t be prepared for those bad events when they come.

This might be a valid argument for planning for the worst, but on the other hand, a person can know about the bad, but not focus on the negative so much that the negative possible outcomes overshadow the positive possible outcomes.

I’m sure that thinking the best instead of the worst will be a lifelong battle for me, but it’s something I want to work on. I want to change my negative thinking, dismissing those thoughts instead of claiming them. I want to think the best, not to be naïve enough to think every situation will come out with the best-case scenario but to be brave enough to believe that some situations will.

Faithfully Thinking: The miracle I needed and others need too

I didn’t want to be moved to a new room in the hospital. I had just got comfortable in my private room in the Covid wing. I had also just fallen asleep for more than a half-hour to an hour at a time which had been plaguing me for two days. People weren’t interrupting me. I just kept jerking out of a Covid-induced-coma-sleep, terrified and feeling completely like I was outside of my body. It was awful.

I had actually been in my first three hour stretch of sleep in days when I was woken up by Phil, my six-foot something Teddy bear of a nurse, and told I had to be moved to another room because they needed my room for a man since he couldn’t be placed with the woman who had just been brought in.

I had to have a roommate. That meant I couldn’t pray or cry out loud to myself anymore.

I was being moved? I had to lose the emotional support of the nurses I had come to love?

Wait. What?

Covid brain fog is no joke but Covid brain fog when you were asleep for the longest stretch in two days and have been woken up is even worse.

“But I don’t want to go,” I told Phil, my bottom lip quivering.

“Aw, hon, it’s okay,” Phil told me, kneeling down to my level. “You’re doing great and you’re going to be in great hands. Mike is going to be your nurse and he’s great.”

I nodded, sniffled like a child and hugged my purse to me.

“O-o-Kay.” sniff.

Before I knew it, I was being pushed down a hall, weepy, looking warily into a room at a woman who didn’t necessarily look friendly from my quick glance.

“She’s sick, Lisa,” I reminded myself. “She’s not going to look friendly right now.”

She was curled on her side, no covers, arm under her head. She’d probably been woken up too and wasn’t real pleased about it. I guessed her age to be somewhere in her 60s.

I was wheeled to my bed and climbed quickly to the safety of it, always afraid I’d get shaky and fall even though I was fine most of thr. The bed was my safety net, as sad as it sounds.

It was a bed that actually hadn’t been ready for me. The nurses had to quickly set it up and move me in. Everything seemed so haphazard and unorganized on this floor. Where had I been brought to?

In the bed I waited to be hooked up to the 24/7 pulse ox I’d had in the previous room. The nurses took my state-of-the-art pulse ox hook up off my finger and let me know that didn’t have a 24/7 setup in this room because the other patient had it. She was hooked up to monitors and IVs and I started to wonder if the hospital was cutting corners because of shortages and what would that mean to me? What if my oxygen dropped but they didn’t have me hooked up where they could see my numbers at the nurse’s station like they had in the previous wing?

I would realize later, when I was less panicked about it all, that I didn’t need to be monitored as well as my roommate because my oxygen numbers were doing well on the very low flow of oxygen I was on. I was monitored every few hours and if I was nervous at all I could call the nurse or an aide to check. My roommate, who I will call Betty for this post, was in much worse shape.  The machine was beeping every half an hour or so, letting the nurses know her oxygen was at dangerous levels, even on the higher flow of oxygen she was on. This was normally when she was trying to get to the bathroom or just rollover.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital praying for myself.

“Lord, save me.”

“Lord, don’t let me die.”

“Lord, don’t leave my kids without a mom.”

When I was put in with Betty, I found myself praying for her too.

I’m not someone special, some amazing Christian. I still prayed for myself. I’m human. I’m selfish. But praying for Betty gave me something else to focus on and, more importantly, someone else to focus on.

On Saturday night, a day after I’d been placed with her, an aide was begging Betty to put on a bipap to force air into her lungs. Her oxygen had dropped to 63 or 68 percent.

This young man, probably about 24 years old, who spent much of his time joking around, kneeled next to her bed and he said, in the sweetest, most pleading voice, “Betty, I need you to do this for me, okay? I need you to fight for me and this is one way to fight. Your family needs you, Betty. Please try this for me. I don’t want to lose you tonight, okay?”

Another nurse came in and together she and this young man convinced Betty to put on this Bipap (similar to a CPAP used for sleep apnea) so she could breathe. Watching that aid and that nurse was like watching a scene from a television show. He especially was like a real-life angel, not to sound too dramatic.

Betty was unable to keep the mask and device on for more than am hour before she said it was making her feel like she was suffocating. When the nurses were out of the room, I told her she was suffocating without it. I told her I would hold her hand while she fell asleep on it. She shook her head, thanked me, but said she just couldn’t do it.

“Betty, do you have a family at home?”

“Yes. I have grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

“Fight for them, Betty.”

I walked around the curtain, shaky and tired, and laid my hand on her leg as she tried to rest, still trying her best to wear the Bipap mask. I asked God to help her keep the Bipap on so she could breathe. At that moment her oxygen rose from 85 to 98, well in normal range.

She was not able to keep the Bipap on for very long, but it did help while it was on. A couple of hours later, her oxygen was dropping again, and nurses came in to raise the flow on her oxygen, which can cause damage in the long run. She sat up on the bed while they tried to figure out how to get the oxygen in her without ventilating her and her oxygen dropped into the 70s. I was pacing on the other side of the curtain, praying, in between begging Betty to try the Bipap mask again.

The high flow began to work, and Betty was able to lay down again and I worked on getting some sleep. Somehow both of us slept for four hours or so that night.

Betty and I didn’t have a lot of time to talk, in between her throwing up and trying to breathe well and sleeping, but I did learn she had a husband, grandchildren and also COPD and heart failure. I learned that she was okay with my praying for her, even out loud, and she said she appreciated it. She said she didn’t go to church, but believed in God. She also gave me her jello and some crackers, probably after she heard me telling my mom how I was hungry all the time and felt like the meals weren’t filling me. I didn’t understand why I was so hungry and wondered if it was the steroids I was on, even though they were a low dosage.

Two nights after I thought I was going to listen to Betty die, I was being discharged. I had to have one last dose of the anti-viral medication and I was a nervous wreck, worried that I would be this close to going home to my family and I’d have some weird side effect from the medicine. I hadn’t so far, but I had this fear I would this time and that they would keep me from my children and husband again. (Note: if you are ever in the hospital, don’t read what others have to say about the medication you are being given, especially if the person says it is a conspiracy and now you are going to have kidney failure.)

In the end, all that worrying about what the medicine might do, raised my blood pressure and the nurse hinted I was going to be unable to go home with my family who was downstairs in the parking lot waiting for me. My family had driven 45-minutes, I desperately needed them for my healing, and I couldn’t take the stress of waiting for Betty to die, while praying she wouldn’t.  

“I have to get out of this hospital,” I told the nurse. “I have to go home. You don’t understand.”

I couldn’t calm down. Watching a Christian comedian wasn’t even helping. The nurse said that after talking to the doctor, she was going to give me medication to lower my blood pressure and if it came down, I could go home.

The nurse was at the end of her shift, stressed, wanted to send me home but was worried if she did and something happened to me at home, she would one, feel horrible and two, lose her job. She’d had to report the high blood pressure to the doctor. She had no choice, but she knew I was upset. She started my discharge paperwork, in case my blood pressure came down, rushing in and out of the room to check my blood pressure in between trying to also discharge four other people. I closed my eyes and prayed, terrified I would not get home that night after being told I would.

My eyes popped open.

My dad had been encouraging me to talk to Betty about becoming a Christian, but “Daaaad, hello? Betty is just trying to feel better and breathe normally. I can’t be over there proselytizing.”

 So I had prayed silently for Betty, asking God to touch her and heal her. I’d also already told her she could call on Jesus anytime she needed him, silently or out loud.

Laying there, waiting for my blood pressure to come down, though, a thought popped into my head. “Pray with Betty one more time. Tell her how to ask Jesus into her life.”

I felt a little like maybe God was making me jump through a hoop, or maybe that I was looking too much into this delay, or like I was being a bit dramatic. I mean, come on. Was God really delaying my discharge so I would pray with Betty one more time? This was silly.

Silly or not, I prayed out loud with Betty, who I couldn’t see behind the curtain between our two beds, and who was waiting for a nurse to come help her to the bathroom. I told her that if she ever wanted to ask Jesus into her heart she could do so, and it could be as simple as asking him to come and be a part of her life. Or something like that. I’ll be honest here; I don’t remember exactly what I said. I was nervous, felt like I was being one of those Christians who looks for signs in everything, and wanted to go home. But I also wanted Betty to have some comfort while I was gone and wasn’t there to pray with or over her anymore.

Betty said she understood what I was saying, thanked me for praying for her and said she appreciated everything I had done. She wished me luck going home. She was exhausted but still wanted to thank me.

Fifteen minutes later my blood pressure had dropped a small amount, not really enough for the nurse’s liking, but enough that she worked out a deal with the doctor to send me home if I agreed to monitor my blood pressure with my cuff at home, to increase my blood pressure medication (which I hadn’t yet started at that point), and see my doctor in six days.

I was going home, and I was so excited and nervous all at the same time. I was worried about me because I wouldn’t have 24/7 monitoring any longer.

I was also worried about Betty. I didn’t want to leave her alone in the hospital. Her doctor had said her family could visit her as long as they were masked and covered, and I hoped they would the next day. Still, who would be there to pray with her if her oxygen dropped again? Yes, of course I knew I could pray for her at home too.

I was also worried about Betty. I didn’t want to leave her alone in the hospital. Her doctor had said her family could visit her as long as they were masked and covered, and I hoped they would the next day. Still, who would be there to pray with her if her oxygen dropped again? Yes, of course I knew I could pray for her at home too.

After I was home, Betty was still on my mind even as I dealt with exhaustion and other symptoms. I knew the hospital couldn’t tell me how she was, since I wasn’t family. I called, though, and asked a nurse to tell Betty I was still praying. The nurse said she wasn’t supposed to tell me Betty was still there but that she was and that she would tell Betty I was praying.

Then I went to Facebook, did some sleuthing and found Betty’s account. From there I found a family member, or so I thought anyhow, and messaged them out of the blue, asking if they could give me an update on Betty.

To shorten the story, not only did this family member give me an update, but she also gave me Betty’s cellphone number at Betty’s request.

I texted her and she responded that she couldn’t talk right then.

I knew she was probably still fighting for her life so I texted back I understood and told her I would be praying.

Two days later Betty called me on my cellphone.

Her voice was clear, she wasn’t gasping for air, and she told me they had lowered her oxygen from 30 or 40 Liters to eight a couple of days earlier and that that day they had lowered it to 6 liters. At home she is on 4 liters at all times because of her COPD.

“My lung collapsed two days ago,” she said. “But I’m feeling better. I can eat, I’m coughing up a bunch of junk they wanted me to cough up and they say I might go home in two days.”

To say I was shocked by this exchange is an understatement.

This woman who was one step from being ventilated (something doctors try their hardest not to do anymore because of the damage it does, they told me) had just called me to tell me she was going home in two days.

Going home.

Not to ICU.

Home.

Wow.

Here I had been worried I would be reading her obituary and instead I was hearing the woman say to me, “I credit the good Lord above for this and I’m going to take better care of myself when I get out of here. Yes, I am.”

We agreed we would keep in touch, even after she left the hospital and I told her we will stop in and visit sometime when we are up in her area.

The next day she texted me and told me she was home.

The situation with Betty taught me a couple of things. It didn’t teach me that I’m some great Christian. Not at all. I prayed with Betty, but I wasn’t bold or confident about it. I was hopeful God would heal her, but I worried He wouldn’t.

However, meeting Betty taught me to be a little bolder in my faith at least. I think the fact I had brain fog from Covid probably made me a little braver too. I didn’t have the brain capacity to overthink like I usually do, which was a gift from God, even though I prayed for the brain fog to be taken away. He knew if I could think something like, “I look like some weird fanatical religious person doing this,” I wouldn’t actually pray out loud over Mary, asking Jesus for her healing. I couldn’t think that because my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Not even close.

The time in the hospital showed me that I need to hold on to Christ when I feel like I can’t hold on to anything or anyone else. I had faith that the nurses and doctors would try to help me, but I knew only God could really heal me and protect me and I had to keep reminding myself of that. I wasn’t some super, confident Christian in that area. I had to listen to my mom, a pastor’s wife, and friends tell me that. Over and over.

I worried after my diagnosis that I or my husband would be a statistic. Or the rest of my family. Then I worried Betty would. Or members of other families who had it at the same time would. There were many times that Christ’s peace settled over me and a few moments later I would worry again and wipe it all away. I’d have to pause, pray and ask again for Christ’s peace.

In addition to strengthening my reliance on God, meeting Betty also taught me that God is still in the business of miracles.

There is so much sadness in the world. There is heartache, bitterness, hatred, hurt, and there has been deep, deep loss because of this virus. But there are also miracles like mine and Betty’s happening.

When I looked at my oxygen levels on Thanksgiving Day and saw it was lower than I’d read it should be during COVID, I panicked. When my husband went to get the car and it dropped even lower while I walked, yet I still felt pretty good, I completely panicked. While we waited for the ambulance, I pondered why I felt okay, why I wasn’t gasping for air. On the way to the ER, I wondered if the trip was wasted. In the ER when they finally said my blood oxygen was showing lower in the blood gasses than on the pulse ox and hooked me up to oxygen, I still wondered if my being admitted was necessary. I still wonder if the oxygen would have come back up on its own or not. I know some others have while others have not.

Maybe I overreacted or maybe it was all divine.

Maybe the ER doctor was over cautious and if he was then I am still thankful because he very well may have saved my life.

I am also thankful for his actions, not because his decision meant I spent five days away from my family, but because his decision led me to meet Betty and through Betty see a miracle.

It was a miracle that I, and many others, needed right now in our lives.

Faithfully Thinking: Peace That Passes All Understanding

As many of you know I was in the hospital recently for Covid.

I mentioned in previous posts that it was a very traumatic experience. The whole might die thing was traumatic, of course, but being away from my family and thrown in the midst of the chaos of a hospital where they are treating very sick patients was also very traumatic.

I’ve been a Christian since I was five-years old. I’d like to say I’ve trusted God through every moment of my life and never doubted but that would be a lie. I am a human with human doubts.

Over the years I’ve tried to build my faith through saying familiar verses over and over or relying on God’s promises from the Bible. My mom has helped me do this more than anyone.

Sitting in the emergency room Thanksgiving night, hooked up to oxygen and an IV, I tried to remember the verses my mom had recited to me over the years:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

My husband played music and sermons while we waited to see what treatment they would give me. We both tried to stay calm even as my mind raced.

In the midst of it all, while I thought of the worst (imagined myself being intubated like they talk about on the news), there did seem to be an odd sense of peace settling over me. I wanted to scream and run away more than once but something in me said to stay in place and God was going to walk me through it if not deliver me from it. He wanted to give me peace even as the chaos was swirling around me.

Peace settled over me again and again throughout the next five days. That doesn’t mean that I was cool as a cucumber or never had a breakdown because I definitely did. I cried more than once, I begged God to send me home with my family, I wondered if I would get worse and never make it home. I had the incessant trembling in my body which still remains.

God sent me a roommate on my second day there. I was moved from a private room to a new room in another wing at 3 a.m. with a roommate and I was terrified. I had gotten used to my  cozy room and the nurses and aids on their 12 hour shifts. I had met Phil and Lisa and they were amazing and wonderful and reassuring. They were my safety nets, and they were being taken away. I was terrified again.

I wanted to be sure my oxygen was going with me too. That was my physical lifeline.  I needed to keep remembering that God was my real lifeline though. He had to keep reminding me and he did that when they began to turn the oxygen I was on down until they took it off me only a day and a half after they’d put me on it.

I needed to pray for even more peace when I was taken to a room with a roommate, but then I needed to pray for peace for her too. Her situation was much worse. Her oxygen was dropping every time she tried to sit up or use the bathroom. The staff was monitoring her blood oxygen 24/7. They had stopped doing that for me which was another source of fear I had to overcome. Every time they came into the room to check my pulse ox I tensed up. What if it was low again? What if I had a setback? Obviously they thought I didn’t need to be monitored constantly, so that should calm me, right?

And it did most of the time, but it also worried me because what if my oxygen dropped when they weren’t checking?


What if they didn’t get there fast enough and I couldn’t breathe?

What if was my favorite two words, as you can see.

Then a nurse said to me, “what if everything turns out fine? What if you are doing great, because you are? Sometimes we need to focus on the good what-ifs.”

I knew she was right and that I needed to be focused on the good what-if’s even as I struggled with the bad what-ifs.

My mom and others sent a ton of encouraging verses on to me over my five-day stay and even over this last week and I held on to one of them as my prayer: that God would give me the peace that passes all understanding throughout my ordeal.

Philippians 4:6-8

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

I did my best to focus on the good things each day. I focused on the times the trembling was better or the times my head was a little more clear than the day, or hour (ha), before. I focused on the meals I could eat and taste. I focused on how I could talk to my family even in the hospital. I would also focus on the good moments with my roommate, the times her breathing was better or she could rest.

There were many times during my ordeal that peace settled over me and there are many times that peace settles on me now as I recover. There are days, though, I have to pray for that peace, ask God again to give it to me as he did in the hospital. I will never stop asking for it and claiming it in his name.

I  will keep praying for it until it is manifest in my life.

I have a small book that a friend gave to me years ago and one thing it says in the book is to call upon the healing we want until that healing comes and that is what I am doing right now. I am declaring healing for my body but especially for my mind and my spirit. And I am declaring internal peace.

Faithfully Thinking: How many times will God forgive us?

There is an area of my life that I keep messing up in.

It’s a place of shame and difficulty that I have prayed about and tried to rectify over and over again. Every time I fail, I feel like a bad Christian. I immediately want to hide from God, as if he isn’t already aware of my sins and mistakes.

It’s extremely hard for me to imagine that God loves me in my worst moments, in the moments where I repeat something I’ve asked God for forgiveness for probably a hundred times.

There is a verse in the Bible where Peter asks how many times we must forgive another person who has wronged us.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?   As many as seven times?”
Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

— Matthew 18:21-22

According to some Biblical scholars, the idea behind this statement is not to sit and actually do the math and keep track of how many times you have forgiven someone. Instead, the idea is that there should be no limits to our forgiveness, the same way God does not limit how many times he will forgive us.

This doesn’t mean that we should keep messing up over and over, deciding God will forgive us anyhow, so it’s not a big deal. Of course, we need to do our best to walk in God’s ways, to obey his commandments, and to stop what we are doing that we know he would not want us to do. There will be times, though, that our flesh steps in. Our selfishness, our human side takes over, if even for a brief time, and we temporarily lay aside what we know we are supposed to do. Even then, God forgives us.

Even writing that is hard for me because I still feel very disappointed in myself over my repeated failings. I still ask God, “Why do I ignore that inner voice that tells me to behave and act the way you are calling me to?” I still feel the shame, still feel I don’t have the right to come to him and ask, yet again, for forgiveness.

In this season in my life, I sense God is urging me to seek out the real reason I keep messing up in certain areas of my life. There is a deeper reason, something I’m trying to hide from or run away from. Maybe not physically run away from, but psychologically. There are areas of my life I don’t want to face and it’s easier to distract myself in ways I shouldn’t. It’s easier to act out or be angry at someone else because then I don’t have to sit and look in at myself and how I haven’t handed over hurts or feelings of insecurity that I should have handed over to God long ago.

There are times I shy away from asking for forgiveness from God.

“Ugh. I can’t do it again,” I say to myself. “How can I be doing this yet again?”

In 1 John1:9 we are told that “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

It doesn’t say he will forgive us our sins once and that is it. The Bible doesn’t assign a number to how many times God will forgive us, why should we?

If you’re like me and struggling with a sin you keep repeating yet feel shame over and keep asking God to forgive you for, please know you’re not alone. Not only am I struggling with this issue, but I am very certain there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of Christians struggling as well.

Faithfully Thinking: Why aren’t some people healed?

Before I start this post, I want to explain that it is not a woe-is-me-post. It is not a “my life is worse than others” post. This is a “you’re not alone” post if you also face chronic health issues, big or small. This is also a post pondering why some receive God’s healing and others do not.

My issues are nothing compared to those who have struggled with chronic pain for much of their life. I’m also not claiming an illness. This is simply what’s happening in my life now. And what is happening now is I am dealing with a bladder issue off and on that often keeps me up at night, as well as pain in my sciatica nerve and lower back. Both of these issues have recently been improving and seem to go through spurts of being there and not being there.

This issue, along with several others involving muscle aches and extreme fatigue, has been happening off and on for over a decade now. In the midst of all of this, I have seen some other health issues I’ve dealt with for years improve some. So, it’s not all doom and gloom in my world, thankfully. 

I was diagnosed with reoccurring Urinary Tract Infections as a child. I was placed on antibiotics even if the test showed I didn’t have an infection. I had two exploratory procedures to see what was happening and why I had so many infections and discomfort. No official diagnosis was ever made, other than one doctor saying my bladder was small and had never fully developed. 

In my mid-20s I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which leads to all kinds of “fun” medical symptoms. The thyroid issue was not addressed until I was in my early 30s because I was told by an endocrinologist I wasn’t really hypothyroid. Instead, I was a woman, newly married, and had anxiety. The thyroid condition was then masked for a few years by antidepressants. Once I took myself off the antidepressants, after gaining more than 50 pounds, and all my energy, I began to have massive panic attacks and was finally told (again, by a new GP) that my thyroid was off and I should be on medication. My original GP was correct all along. Some of this may explain why I have a healthy distrust of doctors and the medical profession as a whole.

All of this rambling is to explain that I have prayed for healing from various symptoms stemming from these medical issues for years. My mom has prayed for healing for me as well. My mom also suffers from some near debilitating health issues, and I may have inherited some of that, though my issues are nowhere as severe as hers. We have also prayed for complete healing for her as we did for my grandmother, whose issues were even worse than ours.

It can be hard when we pray for healing from issues and that healing doesn’t come.

It can be hard to watch other people receive healing when we don’t. We may be happy for the other person, but we wonder where our healing is. Or maybe it isn’t our healing we are praying for but the healing of a loved one. 

I can’t say I’ve ever felt jealous of someone who has received healing when I haven’t. I suppose I have figured that this chronic health stuff of mine is simply normal for me. It’s what I was born with and it’s what I just have to deal with. 

Still, there are days I ask God, “Why me?” 

Why do I have to be the one who looks like I’m afraid of life when really a health symptom is holding me back from some things?

Why am I the one Christians scold for not having enough faith, for not simply “picking up my mat and walking in healing (John 5:1-18 ), for not rebuking Satan enough, for claiming sickness when I should be rejecting it?

Why am I the person who was told by a well-liked Christian in our community that I like being sick, that being sick means I get out of responsibilities so I hold on to the symptoms and talk about them to bring attention to myself. Apparently, she didn’t understand that I don’t want attention, especially when that attention comes from people shaking their heads at me in pity or looking at me like I am a sad, lonely, pathetic person whose whole life revolves around my “made-up” chronic illness. 

I should mention this same Christian also said my mother and grandmother wanted to be sick and enjoyed the attention. Trust me, my mother and grandmother do not and did not enjoy being in excruciating pain from fibromyalgia and if they could have simply said, “I don’t want this, thank you very much” and it would have been gone, they would have.

I have heard about and known many people who have been healed of their afflictions — mental, spiritual, and physical afflictions. Then I have seen others who were prayed over by people all around the world who were never healed and passed away, crushing the faith of many in the process.

What was the difference between those who were healed and those who were not? I have no idea.

All I know is that it happens for some, and it doesn’t for others.

In my own journey, full healing has not come, but there have been small moments of triumph and victory. There have been days, after nights where bladder spasms or back pain has caused me to wake up every hour or 90 minutes, that I have still felt good and been able to accomplish what I needed to accomplish, and then some. 

While I once spent most of my days shaking and feeling weak all over, I’ve had more and more days where I don’t have that weak feeling and go all day without feeling light-headed or without fighting brain fog. If you don’t know what brain fog is, it’s when your whole head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton (literally) and your thoughts are battling to push their way through that cotton.

When I do have some of those symptoms, I know how to manage them better than I once did. I have a litany of natural supplements or solutions that get me through the days when the symptoms flare. 

There are days, even with the victories, I still cry out to God and ask Him, “Where is my healing? Where is it? Where is my miracle like the man by the pool in Bethesda? Why can’t I have it? What am I doing wrong? Which sin is blocking me?” More than wondering about my own healing, though, I often want to know why the healing hasn’t come for my mom. She’s suffered for more than 25 years, maybe even longer. And why didn’t it come for her mother who I clearly remember leaning over a couch in her 70s sobbing and crying out in pain and asking God what he had abandoned her?

If I am asking this question, I can just imagine the anger and frustration someone like Joni Tada Erickson has felt over the years. For those who don’t know who Joni is, she is a Christian speaker who was paralyzed at the age of 17 when she jumped into a shallow lake. She has spent almost 50 years without the use of her arms or legs and also battled cancer twice, but she has also spent 50 years preaching, painting, writing, and encouraging people to focus on the small things of life when the big things seem too much to bear. 

I read a blog post from her recently where she pondered the conundrum of why some are not healed by God and others are. She was writing to Christian doctors and dentists, encouraging them so they could encourage patients who don’t find healing.

After asking for healing for years, and even attending a service specifically for healing, Joni cried out to God for answers.

“Finally, one night in desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “Oh, God, I can’t live this way! Please, if I’m not going to die, show me how to live!” It was a simple plea, but at least my heart was turning God-ward, rather than inward. I felt a glimmer of hope.”

She says she began reading her Bible more, seeking a closeness with God she might have before the accident.

“With time, my perspective on healing began to change. I came to understand that God had a higher priority for my life than an instantaneous physical cure. When we look at healing in the Bible, we find that while it is true that Jesus took time to physically heal many people, He was most interested in their spiritual healing. In sending the 10 men with leprosy to the priests to be declared “clean,” He was also restoring them to fellowship with their community (Luke 17:11-14). Only after offering forgiveness of sins to the paralytic lowered through the roof did Jesus then offer physical healing (Mark 2:1-11). And most importantly, Jesus didn’t physically heal everyone. When it was time to move on, He did so, leaving behind multitudes unhealed (Mark 1:38).

His larger mission took priority—“to seek and to save the lost” and to bring spiritual healing to a broken humanity (Luke 19:10, ESV). It wasn’t that Jesus did not care about the problems among those He didn’t heal physically; it’s just He was more concerned about their spiritual welfare than their physical hardships. As Jesus famously pointed out, it would be better for a person to be maimed than to live in a state of sin and rebellion (Matthew 5:29-30).”

I believe God wants us to have healing, but maybe, as Joni suggests, that healing won’t always come as physical healing.

This post doesn’t mean I feel I have this issue wrapped up in my mind. It doesn’t mean that I think, “Welp, there’s that issue solved. There’s the answer to why I still suffer, and so-and-so doesn’t.” I don’t know if I will ever figure this question out until I am on the other side of heaven. What I hope this post does offer is the comfort that we all have questions like this and that there are times we will see the good even in the midst of the bad. 

Creatively and Faithfully Thinking: God Can Fill In the Gaps

What I like about writing is what I like about photography. In photography you create your vision through the lens, including composition and framing. After you create the image in the camera, you transfer it to your computer and in your computer you can use various programs to further transform the image and complete your vision, if you so choose.

In writing you start with a rough draft, and that rough draft is the basic foundation of what you want to write. It’s essentially the skeleton of your blog post or short story or novel or book. The second, third, fourth and final drafts are building around that initial frame until you have a final product that is well built, polished and pretty to look at. Well built, polished and pretty to look at it doesn’t mean what you photographed or wrote has any feeling to it, though, and here is where I run into problems as a creator.

When I was attempting to be a professional photographer, seeing my services to families, people wanted well-polished and pretty. They didn’t care so much about emotion, and that’s where the disconnect came for me. I cared more about emotion and storytelling than well-polished and pretty. I find I have this same issue in writing. I’m not always great at being technically perfect in my writing. I don’t always add the descriptions or flowery language that others do. I don’t always explain myself or my story well. It’s not always “technically perfect”. I’m more concerned about emotion and the story than nitty-gritty details.

I have to learn to slow down in writing and focus a little more on the description, though, because in writing, descriptions help the emotion and the storytelling. We all have areas to improve on in our creative endeavors and there are times I focus too much on what I’m not doing well instead of on what I hopefully will do better in the future.

Sometimes I worry, like so many of us do, that the shortcomings I possess when I create will affect how God uses my creation. The good thing is that God can use anyone no matter their shortcomings, or the shortcomings they perceive they have. Dallas Jenkins, writer and director of The Chosen series, talks often about how he is giving God his loaves and his fishes, and that God will multiply what he gives for God’s glory. He is, of course, referencing the story in the Bible where there were only five loaves of bread and two fix and Jesus multiplied that food so there was enough to feed a multitude of people.

What an amazing idea that God can take our offering, no matter how small, and multiply it so it touches someone else. When God gets ahold of what we create, even if it isn’t technically perfect and pretty, he makes it beautiful, powerful, and exactly what we need to convey his message of hope and love to a hurting world. If he can create beauty out of ashes, then he can create something outstanding out of what we perceive as barely standing.

Of course, we should always strive to improve, to learn more, to hone our craft, but while we do, we (I) have to remember that God will fill in the gaps and make our meager offerings even more than we could have ever hoped for.