A Miracle

God still performs miracles.  If you don’t believe it, listen to the stories of many patients with terminal illnesses who are now disease-free with no scientific explanation.  Listen to the stories of those whose lives were headed toward increased destruction due to addiction but who now live in freedom.  Listen to the stories of individuals who experienced significant trauma or who walked the darkness of depression and now walk in joy. 

Listen to my story.

I can tell you how I have experienced miracles of healing in the past, but the recent miracle in my life is by far the most tangible and dramatic of all.  God performed an incredible, unexpected, miraculous healing this past week.  Although this is one of my longer posts, it is one that deserves such length in order to ascribe the greatness of God to His Name.

To be honest, I am not one to expect immediate healing, especially with no explanation.  I utilize medical services when I’m sick or have an injury and rely on doctors’ assistance to bring me to health, sometimes without even asking God for healing, even when doctors haven’t helped.  To fully understand the extent of this miracle, you have to understand what I had been experiencing every minute of every day.

I have been living in constant pain.  For some reason, my muscles suddenly became achy, and every task was considerably more difficult.  After typing a small paragraph I had to rest my arms, taking notes in class was often strenuous, driving became a painful chore for my arms, and sitting even for a short period led me to rest my entire body on my bed.  I was deprived of one of my deepest joys and greatest avenues of worship – playing the piano—as my arms were in pain after only seconds of playing.

However, I found ways to accommodate.  I bought pens that were advertised as “effortless writing,” which made writing easier.  I asked friends to copy their notes from class when typing or writing was too painful.  I parked as closely as I could to buildings and took elevators when available.  I put ice packs and heating pads over my body and took frequent rests from everything I did.  Despite my numerous attempts at ridding my body of this, the pain continued, which led to frustration and daily tears when I couldn’t do what I wanted or needed, discouragement when efforts to ease the pain were unsuccessful, and hopelessness when doctors could not find a cause.  I cried out to Jesus, wondering if it would ever end.

Being in a counseling psychology grad program, I am learning techniques to use with future clients.  One of these involves asking a client the “miracle question.”  It goes something like this: “If you were to go to bed tonight and God were to perform a miracle overnight and take this problem away, what would your life look like?  What would be the first thing that you would notice when you wake up?”

Here’s how I would answer that question:

  • I would reach for my alarm that is 12 inches from my head and I wouldn’t feel any pain in my body.
  • I would get ready in the morning without having to rest every two minutes.
  • I would make my bed right away instead of having to come back to it after a half an hour rest.
  • I would sit down to breakfast and pick up my glass of milk with one hand instead of two, without strain.

This is what happened a few days ago.

I woke up, I reached for my alarm without pain, and I continued on in my morning routine without achy muscles, in utter disbelief.  I lifted the entire gallon of milk.  With one hand.  My excitement grew as I continued to get ready, pain-free, so much that I was literally jumping up and down and dancing all over my apartment, testing my muscles and even singing aloud for joy!  It was the complete opposite of what I had been experiencing, and I was absolutely astonished! I couldn’t stop from singing and dancing after what was truly a miracle.  An overnight miracle!  I sat down at the piano, and two hours later found myself still praising God on the keys, without a pain in my muscles, feeling deep fulfillment after an undesired hiatus.

Perhaps you can sense the amazement and utter elation I experienced from this miracle, just like Miriam and the Israelites did when they sang and danced after the miracle of crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 15:20.

If you know me, you know I love water.  When I experienced this miracle, I pictured a wave coming over my body and washing away the illness, like this Lake Michigan wave cleansing the stones.

What also comes to mind is that healing is not just about washing away physical or mental illness.  The ultimate healing is that of spiritual healing.  This is why Jesus paid the price of a life on earth full of challenges including a horrendous crucifixion.

Without a doubt, God answered the faithful prayers of my team of prayer warriors.  Reminding me that He really does know my needs, Jesus’ timing of the healing even provided great financial provision, as I was about to head to another doctor, which could have potentially resulted in high expenses from additional appointments and further tests and would have been difficult due to being in grad school.

Throughout this season, God changed my attitude from one of hopelessness and self-centeredness to one of gratefulness.  I cannot say that at every moment I reflected the joy and eternal perspective that Jesus offers in any circumstance, but I can say that He surely taught me lessons that brought purpose to the pain. I found, once again, that what Sarah Young wrote in Jesus Calling is 100% true:

“Though the lessons of trust that God sends to us come wrapped in difficulties, the benefits far outweigh the cost.”

This does not at all minimize our difficulties. Rather, it describes how much greater our God is than our most painful, devastating experiences on earth, and that I can allow myself to experience His intimate love and care for me if I turn to Him in my pain. Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian who helped save hundreds of Jewish lives in the holocaust and was imprisoned for it, enduring excruciating suffering, put it another way:

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Here are some of the lessons that Jesus taught me during this time:

  1. What I experienced is nothing compared to the pain that some people experience every day of their lives, from birth to death. I have a new understanding and compassion for those who live in chronic pain.
  2. I could be grateful that I was still able to do many things, and I was especially able to do many more things than someone who is paralyzed or has no limbs.
  3. I take too much for granted.
  4. God continues to be faithful and showed me this by giving me the strength to do all that was necessary, such as getting groceries, attending class, and studying.
  5. There is so much that I inaccurately think I deserve.
  6. My attitude is often dependent upon how I feel, rather than reflective of being focused on the presence of God. What if I instead lived out this verse?:

In Your presence there is fullness of joy. ~ Psalm 16:11

I wonder…what if tomorrow the pain returns? Will I remember that only God can be my true source of joy?  That although my health and circumstances will change, God will always remain the same, faithful God who provides for me?  Even when I am in pain, whether physical or emotional, will I worship Him?

When my faith is challenged by the trials of this world, where will I stand?

Maybe this is a short-term healing and the pain will return tomorrow, or maybe I am healed of this for life, but either way, Jesus used the pain for His glory.  I hope and pray that I will remember God’s goodness and faithfulness on a daily basis, including the miracles He has performed in my life and throughout history; that I will allow Him to instill in my heart the lessons He has taught me; and that I will choose to praise Him in any and every circumstance.

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Tears

Why do we shed tears? Physiologically speaking, there are a few different reasons. Some tears, called basal tears, protect and lubricate the eye. Reflex tears serve to rid the eyes of irritation, as in when we chop onions. Others tears, however, come from intense emotions, either out of pain, or in joy. Interestingly, the chemical makeup is actually different between these three types. Emotional tears have an increased level of the hormones prolactin, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and leucine enkephalin, which is actually a natural painkiller, when compared to basal or reflex tears (see The Science of Tears).  Maybe tears themselves even serve in some way to calm our hearts.

However, my greater thought and question moves beyond that of science as I wonder why God chose tears as an expression of sadness.

He could have chosen any other physical act in any other part of the body, but He chose the eyes, and He chose the gentle fall of tears. As I contemplate this, I wonder if one reason He created us this way is so that our pain would be immediately visible to another person. God knew the difficulty humans would often have in communicating with each other, especially when it comes to deep matters of the heart, and so perhaps He gave us tears as another source of understanding.

One of the first things we notice in a person is his or her eyes. As we engage in conversation to connect with each other, we use eye contact. Sometimes it is often difficult to express in words such strong emotion, yet someone else can easily see the pain in tears. Even children recognize this. When I was at a friend’s house, in great distress, her six-year-old daughter walked into the room and saw me crying. Immediately she climbed up onto my lap, kissed my tear-stained cheek, and tenderly laid her head upon my chest as she hugged me in comfort. I needed no words for this little girl to see my hurt.

I may always wonder about God’s reason for tears, but I don’t have to wonder whether He sees them.

Throughout the Bible there are a number of examples that describe expressions of heartfelt emotion, and God welcomes this into His presence and provides comfort to those who come. To Hezekiah, who fell sick, He said, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears” (2 Kings 20:5). He is not afraid of others’ pain and showed this in the story of the woman who came to Jesus in Luke chapter 7. “She stood behind Him at His feet weeping; she began to wet His feet with her tears” (verse 38). Jesus did not walk away from her, but rather expressed acceptance. Tears will continue to fall as long as we are on this earth, but one day, I will see Him face to face, where Revelation 21:4 says

“He will wipe every tear from [my] eyes.”

Until then, He will be right at my side, attending to my tears, catching each one with His love.

Photo used with permission from flickr.com


You are loved

 

do you know mandisa? she’s an amazing christian artist and i love her music and lyrics. the song below, how much, is from her second album, “freedom.”

“Take the depths of the deepest ocean and go deeper
Take the top of the tallest mountain and go higher

Take the best day that you’ve ever had
Try to imagine better than that
And it still don’t come close
To how much you are loved”

it reminds me how big God is and how amazing it is that He loves us so much more than we’ll ever know this side of heaven. i could never express enough my gratitude! we serve an incredible God.

photo used with permission from flickr; asilomar state park, ca

Change

ImageDisp.aspx_5I’m not a fan of most change. However one change I do love is the fall colors. I love that God chose to share such beauty with us in surrounding us with breathtaking colors I can’t even describe. Even more wonderful than this is the fact that the Creator of these will never change. He says in His Word:

“I the Lord do not change.” ~Malachi 3:6

I can always count on Him to be faithful to His promises, and to remain that all-powerful, all-knowing, all-protective, all-loving God He has been, is and will always be. What a relief when so much is constantly changing around us.

I’ve posted some pictures below of some of the leaves I found on a photography walk I recently took. Enjoy!

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The Heavenly Man

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I recently read “The Heavenly Man,” a story about a modern-day Chinese Christian who was persecuted and imprisoned for his faith. He was a regular Paul and so inspiring to his fellow brothers and sisters, both in and out of prison. He saw thousands come to Christ through his work, and had an evident close relationship with Jesus. Here are some of my favorite quotes – I hope you are encouraged as much as I was, and this is only a sliver of the treasures painted in his book. I highly recommend it!

“Through this incident the Lord showed me that regardless of men’s evil plans for me, He had not forgotten me and was in control of my life.”

“God helped me understand His Word and to love Him more dearly. This was a precious time of communion with Jesus.”

“I had experienced so much in those four years, but God had been faithful. I’d suffered some horrible tortures, but God had been faithful. I’d been dragged in front of judges and courts, but God had been faithful. I’d been hungry, thirsty, and had fainted from exhaustion, but God had been faithful. Through it all, God was always faithful and loving to me.”

“The person who does not suffer is he who never experiences God’s intimate presence.”

“We learned a lesson that morning. When we arrive at the end of our own strength it is not defeat, but the start of tapping into God’s boundless resources. It is when we are weak that we are strong in God.”


Communion with Jesus

ImageDisp.aspx_2Just like this bee depends upon the flower to survive, so we depend upon Jesus for life. The amazing thing is that we can each have it for ourselves!

I love that I can talk to Jesus. I love that I can spend time with Him, and that He loves to spend time with me. I love that I don’t have to go through anyone to reach Him because of what He did for me on the cross. I came across these verses that are so meaningful to me because of the solid truth they proclaim:

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. ~ Hebrews 6.19-20

Amen!

(Flower from my mom’s garden)


Successful or Faithful?

As the beginning of the school year approaches, I find myself in a mix of emotions. I am so looking forward to seeing the staff that is so dear to me, and there are certain parts of teaching that I always miss over the summer. Other parts, however, scare me, one being our new curriculum. As I’ve been working on it more, I’ve been increasingly wondering how successful it will all turn out as I teach it. The Lord brought me back to this quote a friend shared with me awhile ago that really hit home and gave me a new perspective:

“God does not hold you accountable for success, but for faithfulness. Be a faithful servant; let the results be God’s.”

I hope that in some way this may encourage you as well!