Friday, August 22, 2014

I am beautiful

I am beautiful….
I'm beautiful because I am made in the image of God.
I'm beautiful because before the world was created God knew who I would be, when I would be and what I would become.
I'm beautiful because I was born on April 12, 1990 at six pounds, twelve ounces precisely as He ordained me to be.
I'm beautiful because I have been given unique abilities and talents.
I'm beautiful because in me is a mind that God crafted with His own hands so that I can think on His majesty and greatness.
I'm beautiful because I'm little yet empowered by the strength of God to do things bigger than man can fathom.
I'm beautiful because I have a heart that was fashioned to seek and yearn for God.
I'm beautiful because I was created with a purpose that is all my own.
I'm beautiful because there is truly not another person on this earth just like me. I'm a one-of-a kind. I'm uniquely me. To the rest of the world I may look like an alien. I'm small…shockingly so. My weight, or lack of, provoke eyes to stare, to gawk and look upon me with sideways glances. But that's okay.
What those people don't know is what is going on inside. They don't know about the MS and the battle for my health that has taken place over the past four years. They don't know the taxing ordeal my body has been through and that's okay. I can't blame them. They simply are unaware that I'm a different kind of beautiful than they're used to seeing on the covers of magazines. I don't fit their glossy ideal of what an ideal woman should look like.
Perhaps I was created to be Christ's kind of beautiful, not the world's.
On days when it seems that all I receive are anything but adoring eyes all I need to do is smile and remind myself that the world doesn't measure beauty by God's standards, but I do. My kind of beautiful is the kind of beauty created by the hand of God for His pleasure and for His glory. I may not be what this world considers beautiful, but if God smiles down on me then I know I'm beautiful in the eyes that matter most, my all-suffieicent creator and lover of my soul. To Him I am beautiful and that will always be enough.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Refining Fire

Fire does one of two things. It refines or it destroys. Just as there are two types of fire, there are two starters of fires. The fire that refines is lit by God, the fire that destroys is lit by the devil himself. It may seem as though you and I have no control over who sets our fires and who controls them, but that is not the case. You and I have much more control over the fires in our lives than we often give ourselves credit for. We are not helpless victims in the middle of a burning building. We can choose to be consumed by a destructive fire or we can choose to become a piece of ceramic in the midst of the blaze, made more beautiful by the heat of the kiln.
This morning my Mom and I wandered down to a farmer’s market just down the road from where we are staying in Hilton Head Island. I was expecting to find an array of luscious vegetables. I was surprised to see that this particular farmer’s market boasted more local artisans than it did local produce. Booths were lined up in rows selling lotions, butters, relishes, purses, paintings, and, my personal weakness, handcrafted ceramic coffee mugs. I’m a sucker for interesting mugs. I have a ridiculously large collection of them but that doesn’t stop me from buying more of them, especially on vacation. I rationalize that they are my souvenir of choice (the truth is I have a lot of souvenirs of choice).
Well today I did some more rationalizing and some more unnecessary purchasing by picking out a beautifully, hand crafted blue mug with a special handle perfect for grasping to sip on a warm cup of morning coffee. This mug has me looking forward to tomorrow morning at seven AM when I will pour myself a cup of black coffee with no cream and no sugar (I’m hardcore).
As I was turning the cup upside down and all around, taking in the intricacies of its design and feeling its perfect curves in the grip of my hand I was reminded of the refining fire. Without it my mug would never reached this level of perfection. The glossy finish would have been unattainable. The glaze could have been applied but without the heat it would have never change its chemical structure to attain the lustrous blue that caught my eye. The process of being under heat caused the chemicals in the clay and the paint to meld together to create a perfectly glassy finish. Paint alone couldn’t create this beauty. It needed the heat of the kiln. It needed to be refined by fire.
Just like me.
All of the greatest of intentions and abundance of knowledge won’t change me or mold me until I am put under fire. It is under the pressure of heat that I can become more than what I am now. I can be refined, molded, shaped and enhanced. Even the greatest of paint and fanciest of materials won’t do me any good unless some heat is applied. It is the kilns of life that bring about the most remarkable beauty.
There are bound to be days, months, and years in life where we feel like the heat is turned up to unbearable temperatures. This is when we have a choice: let it refine or let it destroy.
God can make that heat into a kiln. He can use it to refine but we must let Him.
I want to be like that mug I bought this morning. When I get under heat I want to become better, more beautiful, more breathtaking. I don’t want to crack or crumble in the heat of my fire. I want to get into God’s kiln, let Him turn up the hat and see what design He has in mind especially for me.

The choice is mine and the choice is ours. Who’s setting our fires? Who’s controlling their temperatures? Most importantly, what are we letting those fires do to our lives? Dear Reader, let God set your fires, control the blaze and create something beautiful under the pressure of high heat. Let the Lord refine you by fire.

Isaiah 48:10
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Armor against doubts

There is nothing that the devil loves more than when God's children doubt their heavenly Father. It is music to satan's ears. When doubts arise he knows that he has that little wandering soul right where he wants it, on shaky ground, sinking fast into the depths of a dark, faithless place.
If you've been a Christ follower for more than a moment, or maybe even just a moment, then chances are you've experienced what I'll call, "the dangerous doubts." They come in all forms of questions and concerns…. Does God hear me when I pray? Does God have an actual plan for my life? Is there a Heaven? Will God take care of my loved ones? And here's one that hits a bit too close to home, was I created fearfully and wonderfully like the Bible tells me so?
I will admit to my fair share of doubts. Not only have I had doubts but I've rationalized them, too. It's easy to do when you are in physical suffering and ill health. I've made the excuse that of course I have doubts, how could I not when my body is on the fritz, reducing my physical capabilities and causing me real suffering? My internal dialogue goes something like this, "I have every right to doubt God. Anyone would if they were in my shoes, physically speaking. In fact, it makes sense for me to doubt."
This dialogue can go on for quite some time. All the while satan only grows happier and happier, knowing that with each gripe, complaint and concern I am drifting farther and farther away from the security and foundation of the Lord. With every passing moment of apprehension I sink deeper in despair and deeper into the evil depths of the devil's darkness.

Dear reader, if you find yourself in a place of doubt this morning I urge you to flee that dangerous trap. Rid yourself of the doubt that threatens to pull you away from your all-loving and all-knowing Savior and get back to the basics of God's goodness.
Recognize that as the Bible warns, you are in a battle. Satan has his weapons and they aren't so secret - doubts, questions, concerns and worries are just a few of his favorites. He wields them with wild abandon. Without proper protection you and I run the risk of getting struck and taken down. Thankfully we have our own weapons and a suit of armor that, if we choose to wear, will protect us from every sling, arrow and bullet the devil will throw our way.
When I am overcome with doubts I turn back to Ephesians 6:11-18 and I am immediately reminded that those feelings are nothing more than a weapon of my enemy. They are not of God. They are tricks meant to bring me down and overtake me. But God has given me a weapon of my own. It is scripture and it is truth. I can stand on the rock of God's authoritative scripture and know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know it full well because in Psalm 139:14 God told me that very word!
The scriptures are protection and security for you and me.  They are words of unshakable truth and abundant life. His words are armor against the lies of the devil.
The devil will throw doubts on you, I can guarantee that. He is out to steal and destroy and his number one targets are the lovers of Christ. The good news is that you and I are not ill-equipped to handle the onslaught. We are soldiers in the greatest army ever gathered. We fight for the mightiest King that has ever and will ever reign. Doubts may come but they are no match for the armor of the Lord. He will always protect, always defend and always win in the battle for His beloved children.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Yes, I truly am on the fritz

It's been a long time coming…or at least that's how it's felt.
Four years have passed since I've been able to explain the ups and downs of my body. There have been more downs than ups and more questions than answers. It started with weight and didn't end there. Digestion, numbness, muscle spasms and, most recently, spotty vision and patches of blur that have left me concerned and frantic for answers. 
Finally answers have arrived.
A brain MRI confirmed my suspicion: multiple sclerosis. 
This suspicion has been lingering in my mind for the last six months ever since I heard the voice of God speak this very diagnosis into my car on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I wasn't praying or even seeking God at that very moment. I was singing along to the tune of a song in my car when all of a sudden God spoke simply and clearly, "It's M.S." Ever since then I have believed that what God spoke was true and that, in His time, there would be confirmation. Sure enough, the MRI results showed visually what God had spoken audibly. 
On the face of it the diagnosis  of MS sounds devastating. MS is associated with all sorts of limitations, classically the loss of vision and loss of mobility. The prognosis appears grim with no "cure" and just a lot of management techniques. Despite all of the doom and gloom associated with MS, since receiving the picture of lesions and demyelinating sheath in my brain I've felt overwhelming relief. Odd as it may sound finding these spots has given me a peace that I was desperate to receive.
Over the course of the past four years I've felt like I was going crazy, as if my symptoms were "all in my head." Well, they have been in my head - literally. I haven't been imagining these symptoms or making up my ailments. The evidence has been found and the images have proven my case. My brain is very much on the fritz! 
In a strange way knowing I have MS has given me a renewed strength. I made it. I survived these past four years of confusion and questions. The struggle didn't ruin me, it grew me. God remained faithful the entire time and He never stopped carrying me even on the roughest of days. 
On the morning that I received the results from my MRI I read Psalm 30. When I read it I had no idea how true those words would ring for me in just a few short hours. In Psalm 30:1-3 David wrote, "I will exalt you, Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Lord my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me. You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit."
That is truly what the Lord did for me. I was floundering and struggling under the weight of an undiagnosed condition that I couldn't control or understand. But God didn't leave me there. He sustained me even when my faith was weak and tiny as a mustard seed. When I was fatigued and worn out He breathed into me His limitless energy and vitality so that I could face another day. He spared me from the depths of the pit of the unknown that weighed so heavily on my heart, mind and body. 
In my limited scope of time the four year long wait felt endless but to God it was just a blink of an eye. Although difficult and trying, these four years have been a sculpting tool God has used to mold me into a more patient and enduring child who trusts wholeheartedly in her Father. 

This morning I am thanking God for giving me an answer to my questions and a diagnosis that I can understand and make sense of. Now I can begin the journey of regaining my health and experiencing the healing God has in store for me. As I go forward into my new life of healing and wellbeing I am doing so on the strength and power of God, believing wholeheartedly that the future He has for me is one of good health.

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