Thursday, August 23, 2012

Through Sunshine and Shade...

Another Day is over.
Another 24 hours.
I don't know how you spent yours. But if you'll listen for a moment, I'll tell you how I spent mine and why it was one of the best days I've had in a long time.

I had to go to Dallas yesterday morning because I had to have surgery to sow up my pump and check it and make sure that it was functioning right. Pretty basic stuff, but it was done under full general anesthesia, and there is a big incision and quite honestly it hurts a lot. That's part of the reason I'm up so late. I should be sleeping, but I'm a busy body...not one for lying here in pain with nothing to do. I have to write! :)

It's not any secret that I've struggled with health issues, and lately I have been a bit down. Usually I am pretty good at handling things. I have lived with illness for a long time, and I chose back when it got really rough, that I was going to live happy. Nothing would take my joy. I even told the Lord that, as conversationally as I'm talking to you. I said it out loud..."Lord, I'm going to be the best Christian and be Happy in this life, in Sunshine and in Shade."

So after my initial successes at John's Hopkins this past April, I was elated, and I still am quite frankly. My life from where it was a year ago, is greatly changed. I am so happy for that. However, when I began to have setbacks about 3 weeks ago, the doctors were a little concerned and made mention of some additional treatments and tests I will have to endure in the future which ultimately might lead to a big surgery.

I had been feeling so bad physically, and once I had the conversations with my doctors, my heart and usual up-beat spirit began to sink. I think everyone in life experiences moments when you get that way. When you get down and overwhelmed. I don't care who you are, or what you may be facing...I know that we're all human and frustration is inevitable. For some it's because of sickness, for some it's financial pressures, for some it's a marriage or family crisis, and for others it's a broken, damaged relationship or a bitter, angry heart or sadness because of loss. It can be any of these or all of these!

It's all the same. We all face things that quite frankly, get us down.

So I had been feeling a little down here for a week or so. The doctors are doing tests, and I'm back on a very limited soft/liquid/no fat at all diet (which totally works for me and I'm satisfied with ANY FOOD at this point). But what I was down about was the whole issue of this illness. I found myself frustrated a little bit, asking God what His plan was. Why have I experienced sudden setbacks after 3 good, happy months. Why am I now starting to feel so weak and nauseated? Why is the pain so intense again, why is my pancreas not working again?

I know that God isn't the author of disease and pain and sickness. Satan is. I know that by HIS stripes we are healed. And I also know that He doesn't give me more then I can handle.

So I've been battling over the course of a few days about things going on in my mind. I've been praying and talking to God. And as I was riding with Kevin in the car, my mind began to wander a bit.I just started to think.

For days, I had been stewing about my frustrations, wondering inside of myself silently, "Why would God bring me to this point, just to have me go through more surgery...a terribly difficult one at that, and how can I fix it."

That's when I had a God Moment!

First, the words my husband has said to me over and over again finally resonated within me.

"Ami,We'll get through it. You've got to STOP worrying!" He has told me that over and over, and every time, he's been right. We have always have gotten through it, no matter what it has been. And boy, there's been a lot!

And then, after I thought about Kevin telling me that, I immediately had a flash back of the sermon my pastor at Church on the Rock, John Miller, spoke two Sundays ago that has made me think every day since I heard it. In his sermon, he told about how Satan likes to get into any open doors in our lives. Any cracks that we leave, Satan will push open the door and try to move in. Pastor John quoted the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7, "God has not given us a spirit of fear."
Sure, how simple is that? Of course I always trust Him in day to day things, but lately I've let the fear of this next possibility of major surgery and more feeding tubes and tests and I left that door open for that mindset of anger, frustration and fear take a hold of me. I realized seriously that I have been letting this fear of everything I'm going through, rule my life like I never have before. I quoted the next part of that verse, which says "but of POWER, and of LOVE and of A SOUND MIND." That is what I SHOULD have. A spirit of Power, of Love and A SOUND (not a Fearful) mind!!! WOW!!!

And then after that thought, a song called, "If you Want me To," by a beautiful woman named Ginny Owens who is blind and plays the piano just came to mind.

The words are (a few of them):

"...This may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'd never walk alone..."

Those words pierced that spirit of fear like a balloon that was filled with water and once it was pricked, it burst open!!! I could literally feel the fear and worry and doubt and frustration and anger and tiredness and weakness just fell off of me and I clutched Kevin's hand and smiled.

I promised the Lord once a few years back whenever this all started with me that NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS...whatever path the Lord has, wherever it takes me, I would serve Him to the very best of my ability. If I'm fearful, scared, overwhelmed, frustrated, and worrying about this situation, it's not going to help me one bit. It's going to hinder my walk and testimony for God.

SO, I determined something that I knew all along, as I was my husband's hand today on the ride to Dallas, Texas. I realized that no matter what...I'm going to be okay! I have nothing to fear, as He promised me I'd never walk alone.

Deuteronomy 31:8 says "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

So there it is.

In the Sunshine.
In the Shade.
I'm in it to serve Him. I'm not going to stop, to quit, to give up, to feel defeated. The battle has started and I've got the big guns on my side :)!!!

I publicly thank the Lord for the miracle He is working in my life. The Doctors once said I may never eat again, well while I'm not eating everything, for a while I was able to eat somewhat normally again without throwing up, and now, even after this setback, I'm still able to eat jello, pudding and animal crackers without throwing up yet. Little victories are HUGE to me! Thank you, Lord!!!

Being 100% honest, It is hard to be positive all of the time! It's hard because I have tremendous pain with this disease, even with medication. I don't really like to talk about the pain. It's just hard for me to handle, but I do enjoy sharing things about this process, and having people to listen, as sometimes I get lonely because my health and conditions do not allow me to do everything I love and desire to do. I'm so thankful my friends and family understand that. I have the best intentions, but sometimes I over-commit and that's my fault and something I am always working on! I just feel very blessed to have each one of you reading this as a part of my life.

There is beauty everywhere. I've been lapsing on my writing recently. I keep a gratitude journal, and because of the recent setbacks, I was so frustrated with the pain and such that I wasn't even writing in that. Bad idea. Being thankful, especially in the difficult times, keeps your mind focused on what is so good about living. My gratitude list today includes that 3 hour ride to Dallas, holding the hand of the man that I love and that the surgery I had was a success, and that my kitty cat is cuddling up right next to me as I write this blog. Beauty is the picture of my nephew with a funny face that my sister in law sent me. Beauty is looking forward to holding my Sister's new fat little twins when I go home late September for my consultation at Hopkins.

I am going to move past the "fear" stage, and the "unknown" stage.
And grasp a hold of God's hands. The hands that hold the world, hold my heart.
OF COURSE, in Sunshine
and In Shade!

Love you,
Ami :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Unknown...

I sit here right now in my living room. I am surrounded by books, mostly journals. I've been writing and doing some computer work and just trying to be comfortable.
Last week I had my first major setback since I got my gastric pacemaker.
For those of you who have been traveling this journey with me regarding my health, and have been praying for me, I know all of the things I mention about my health are difficult to understand and can be complicated. I know that, so for those who read on, I will try to simplify things.
I have Chronic Pancreatitis and Recently on April 3rd of this year, I got a gastric pacemaker put into my stomach to help with my motility issues. It had been 2 years since I'd eaten, and since the surgery, I've been eating again. At first, I ate bites of everything, but immediately I followed the doctors guidelines of what I could and couldn't eat.
The pancreas is a filter, and when your pancreas doesn't work right, things get out of whack, especially when you have Chronic Pancreatitis. It is very painful and distinct and when you have it, you can't usually eat because of the constant nausea and vomiting.
I had been doing very well, following my diet pretty good, except every now and then I would have a bite or two of something I would crave.
Well, Last week, I felt some terrible pains in the middle of my chest, and they are deep pains that squeeze. I felt my heart sink. Those pains are very familiar to me. They are pancreas pains.
My doctors confirmed that I was probably most likely having a mild flare of the pancreatitis that I live with. I haven't had one in a while, especially since they did Surgery at John's Hopkins. So when I have a flare of pancreatitis, basically, I can't eat for a while and then when I do eat, I am on a very strict diet of no fats and such. It's hard, but I've been through worse.
So for the past 3 days, I've had gut rest and I've been having some stomach problems that have been hard, but overall I'm feeling better today, although I haven't been very adventurous in my eating. The doctors are worried about me getting my nutrition and the right balance of what my body needs without getting dehydrated and they have even bounced around putting another tube in me for times like this when my pancreas acts up. At least then I could have my nourishment. All that will remain to be seen. I am, for now, just being monitored and I'm going to be okay.

You know, friends, I guess the thing that is the hard part for me regarding this illness, if I'm quite honest, is the unknown.
The doctors at Hopkins told me that they were sure my sugery was a success, but they were NOT sure just how long the pancreas would stay quiet or how long it would be until or IF my pancreas would act up again.
So the moment that I felt those awful pains, I got scared. I looked at my precious husband. We were sitting together and I told him how I was feeling and I could feel tears coming to my eyes. Emotions about all of the things we've been together through rushed over me. I don't like going through times of not eating. It's not even so much that as it is the way it makes me feel. The pain, the discomfort. Having had a feeding tube. I don't like the things that this disease does to my stomach. I don't like the nausea and vomiting and the other things I don't even need to mention so that you're not totally grossed out.
I just don't like it.
I've been so happy with the progress I've made since the surgery I had at Hopkins on April 3rd. But this last week has been hard because I have experienced a little setback, a little bit of a scare, but after resting and following doctors orders, I'm a little better today and I'm realizing that I have to come to terms with the unknown and that not knowing what's going to happen in the long run is okay! As long as I'm trusting in the one who knows it all!!!

I won't lie, It's hard for me because not eating is hard to do. I have to limit all fats and butters and oils. I have to not eat high fiber and many fruits and vegetables are off limits because of digestion issues. I am limited, and lately I have a real "Fear" of eating and putting something --- THE WRONG THING -- in my mouth because it could trigger a flare of pancreatitis. Lately I've been living off of Animal crackers and rice cakes because they are low in fat, but have flavor. I know I have to find things that I can really have. I'm trying to drink some protein shakes that have my vitamins, but sometimes even the fat in those bothers me and the squeezings will start.

I'm telling you these things so you will better understand and also pray for me.
Please also realize that I DO believe that God is healing me. I believe that He is working a mirracle, and no matter what I face, I won't let these setbacks, these little unknown areas of life dictate my happiness.

I keep a little charm in my pocket that says, "Live with Joy." That's all it says. It doesn't say, "Live with Joy when times are good and the sun is shining." It doesn't say "Live with Joy when you want to."
It just says "Live with Joy." That means all of the time. that means when you have setbacks. That means when the Unknown is all you know.
A beautiful friend gave me the devotional "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. It's a life changing book that I literally just read with such excitement every morning.
Today's devotion was so poignant. It said "When things seem to be going all wrong, stop and affirm your trust in Me. Calmly bring these matters to Me, and leave them in My capable hands..."
That's what I do with the unknown, my friends. Leave them in to the hands of the one who is capable. That is my Lord and Savior. These momentary setbacks, these temporary trials are just that...little setbacks, and if they become bigger, the same Lord and God that got me through the first round of things will get me through this next trial too.
It's okay to be down and have moments of sadness and frustration. As long as in the next breath we smile and take hold of things and ultimately live with joy!

Thank you for reading. I love you each!

Ami :)