Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 18, Trip 3 - Haiti Mission - Mercy Defined

Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me.
Break my heart for what breaks Your's
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity.

~Hillsong United, "Hosanna"

When I took an online quiz a few months ago to help identify my spiritual gifts, the gift of mercy wasn't something I was really familiar with and to be honest I didn't think the quiz had done it's job. I was pretty sure that wasn't me. I mentally tossed it aside....until tonight.

I stumbled across a blog tonight regarding the homeless in this country and one man's mission to get their stories "out there." The beginning of his blog reads:

On the street I saw a small girl cold and shivering in a thin dress, with little hope of a decent meal. I became angry and said to God; “Why did you permit this? Why don’t you do something about it?” For a while God said nothing. That night he replied, quite suddenly:

“I certainly did something about it. I made you.”

Amazing. Not that I don't already know that God created each and every one of us for a purpose to further his kingdom, but oh what it would be like to hear God specifically tell you, this is what I made you for. Most of us flounder around trying to figure out what God's will is for our life. I'm finding that God just kind of points in you the right direction if you'll just relax and let him. In fact, we're pre-programmed by God with spiritual gifts designed specifically for us and our personalities.

Which brings me back to the original question.....What is the gift of Mercy and do I really have it? (Call me crazy that I tend to not trust online surveys.) The gift of mercy is defined as "the capacity to feel and express unusual compassion and sympathy for those in difficult or crisis situations and provide them with the necessary help and support to see them through tough times.*" In the past 2 days I have found myself very emotionally wrapped up in the lives of friends or those close to the family just due to their circumstances and medical crises. Then tonight I find my heart breaking for the homeless and me wanting to do something. I don't know what, but something. So I cry out to God just as Hillsong proclaims...."break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for the kingdom's cause....." I want to do more....or do I?

You see the problem with the RA and the fibromyalgia is the fatigue and the lack of ability to commit. I have struggled numerous times and probably will continue to struggle with the way I end up disappointing people because they can't count on me, I sign up to help or agree to do something and due to pain levels or extreme exhaustion I end up having to back out of those plans. So while I want to do more and to serve more, what happens when I can't commit or can't follow through with the service I agreed to? But what about the times when I'm not merciful? Does that mean I really don't have this gift? I don't know. What I do know is that there are times when my compassion runs thin....when I've tried to be there so many times and tried to be Jesus to someone or numerous someones and have felt as if I were running into a wall each and every time. But then I hear a song...."if it takes fifteen times, to hear about Jesus...for someone to believe. Wherever I stand in line, I've gotta make a difference, in case it comes down to me....because I may be third, I may be the seventh...there may be years in between....what if I'm fifteen? What if I'm fifteen? What if I'm fifteen?"

Something that God has been teaching me these past months....."you can always pray." You see it doesn't take perfect health or wealth to pray and connect to the heart of God. God hears me clearly whether sitting in a pew or laying in bed. My fear of commitment or rather the fear of rejection from my lack of ability to commit has been the stumbling block for being obedient to God's call. God has been steadily pushing me to start a small group for women battling chronic pain for, oh, I'd probably say about a year now, (which up until recently I was answering with a very firm "but I don't want to!") What I'm starting to discover is that the issue of fear and of disappointing others is precisely why I NEED to do it. Because there are others that are in the same spot and the Lord wants to use them. Jesus wants them to know that they are important to the kingdom of God. The Lord is simply asking me to be a voice, a teacher, a supporter for a population of people that the church isn't listening to or that the church doesn't really understand. But guess what? I do. I know the pain. I know the emotional pain that comes along with losing friends because you break plans too often. I know the hurt that comes when the diagnosis gets older and people think you've gotten better when you never will. I know the longing and desire to be used and to serve even when your body is telling you there is no way that you can do it. I see them!!! I believe them!!! I want to tell them that God is desperately reaching for them to use them!!! And I want them to see that even though I am completely imperfect, that God is using my ability to relate to them to further His kingdom and help give a voice to an area of the congregation that has been vastly ignored or overlooked.

It's a choice. Do you use the gift God has given you or do you fall victim to the world and let selfishness and hypocrisy and judgement suffocate that gift? It's the choice you make to pray for someone despite who's in the room. It's the choice you make to be the friend you're supposed to be. It's the choice you make spend time with someone despite the comments of others and even despite your own desire to turn away. I choose to do it because God's word promises "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matthew 5:7 and I believe that God is true to His word.

So yes, by looking at who I am inside and how I relate to others, what others may view as overemotional I would have to say is perhaps what God has ordained as the gift of mercy. I see that I have "the ability to "walk in another's shoes" and to feel the pain and burdens they carry. The desire to make a difference in the lives of hurting people without being judgmental. Though I may have a difficult time evaluating the intentions of others and at times appear naïve.*" Now, I just need to learn how to lasso my gift and to use it as God intended it, because if I am fifteen and choose to not use it, I'm wasting the gift that God chose so carefully just for me.


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Day 11, Trip 3 - Haiti Mission - A Quick Blip on Gluten-Free Knowledge

“Pain was not given thee merely to be miserable under; learn from it, turn it to account.” - Thomas Carlyle

So, it was very disheartening, especially after yesterday's post and putting it out there that I had gone gluten-free, to then awaken this morning very stiff and in a lot of pain. The weather was beautiful yesterday and predicted to be high pressure, warm, dry, and beautiful for the next couple of days. To say I was grouchy was an understatement. To use a phrase commonly heard from a good friend of mine, I was snarky. Crusty. A notch higher than just plain irritated.

The problem with trying to eat out and being gluten-free is that when you assume that you're getting something that should be fine, sometimes you don't. I had a Harvest Apple Chicken Salad from Wendy's last night, which included all of the necessary little packets to put on the salad. I checked the ingredients on the Apple Vinegarette, which was fine, but on a side note, they include "spiced" dried apples and "spiced" carmelized walnuts and let me guarantee you they aren't just spiced....they're knock you out of your chair HOT. Which apparently should have tipped me off immediately to stop...eating.

My research this evening is proving that I don't know NEARLY what I need to know about what foods and other things that may contain gluten....including, but not exclusive to: cosmetics, medication, carmel coloring, the lickable glue on envelopes, cleaning products, etc........and I could go on and on. So I'll save that for another night. While this "seasonal" salad isn't listed in Wendy's nutritional information, what I'm getting to is that whatever Wendy's used to coat those Spiced Carmelized Walnuts in, I'm pretty sure contained some form of gluten. "How do you know?" you ask....because the only "nut" listed on their website, Roasted Pecans, per the nutritional information/ingredients listed on their website contains "maltodextrin". That's right. Gluten. For the same reason that I can't eat Doritos, regular BBQ chips, or Cheetos is probably the same culprit in the coating on those walnuts.

Do not be mistaken. I am 100% encouraged by the fact that my pain and stiffness this morning could very well be a result of actually having gluten instead of the opposite. I would love for this to be a signal that this gluten-free thing is really having some effect, but I'm sticking to my guns about it being too early to tell. However, I know that I could rant on and on about how the list of things that "may" contain gluten is completely absurd, but no one wants to read that. So I guess that leave me with just one thing left to say......

If I can no longer have the carmel coloring in cola, I guess I'll have to start drinking my rum straight.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Day 10, Trip 3 - Haiti Mission - Discuss Amongst Yourselves....

Though I've made it no secret in everyday life, I have yet to really dive into my new undertaking of switching to a gluten free diet here on the blog. There is a sneaky mommy part of me that is trying to make this switch and have it be oblivious to my children. However, had I served them my first attempt at a frozen gluten free pizza crust, I think they would have clearly ran to the bathroom making vomiting noises the entire way. was that bad. Truly.

There are some real bonuses to being gluten free. For instance, M&M's are gluten free, (which explains the sudden weight gain), and it forces me to cook outside the box. I made some killer vegetable soup, an apple sweet potato soup, and a wonderful chicken and veggies in the crockpot. Today I even had a Double cheeseburger with grilled onions and mushrooms from Five Guys Burgers and Fries (, without the bun of course and it was FAB-U-LOUS. The downside? No rolls. No muffin. No biscuits. No bread. This is definitely bothersome to me as bread can be so comforting. What am I going to do without a good ol' PB & J? Today my boss so graciously ordered pizza for our entire department and while I put the order in for her, I realized I couldn't eat any of it. Well, that sucks.

So, I went on a mission tonight.....finding something, ANYTHING, that will help me dive into the realm of baking my own gluten free goodies. First stop? Trader Joe's. While I know that some people rave about the place, I found it very difficult to figure out what was gluten free and what was not as they were all mixed in together and I couldn't find the little "g" they put on their gluten free stuff and people (snooty, earthy people) were mad because I was taking too long looking at the ingredients....**sigh** I did walk away with some gluten free pancake mix, ginger snaps, and crackers. I also picked up some sweet apple chicken sausage, which intrigued me.

My next stop was Meijer, only because I had some gift cards that I could use and it was right next to Trader Joe's. To my pleasant surprise....the wonderful people at Meijer had a section of the store that was dedicated to gluten free. Imagine that. All in one spot. But my greatest discovery was in the traditional baking goods supply aisle. What to my wondering eyes did appear? That's right....the infamous Betty Crocker spoon stared me right in the face floating above a title banner that I never thought possible. "Gluten Free". I did a double take. "Betty Crocker". "Gluten Free". Well alright then, I'll give that a try. Go ahead, twist my arm. I also picked up some pizza crust mix and am hoping for a much better result than the first. I NEED a perfected pizza crust and QUICK!!

So the week will be filled with gluten free experimental recipes, just don't tell my kids. I should know within this week if this gluten free thing is going to work at reducing my pain. To say that I'm skeptical is putting it lightly. It feels like I'm always being told that "if you just" do this or that you could reduce your pain. Sleep more, exercise, eat more fish, avoid gluten, take supplements, don't over exercise, don't just sit around, but be sure to rest when you need to. I truly believe there is no "miracle" treatment plan, especially for the fibromyalgia. The rheumatoid arthritis is a beast of it's own, but the fibro is what I'm fighting so hard to get past. Just when I think this no gluten thing is working, my pain level is going up this evening.

But maybe it's the Tai Chi.
It could be I was on my feet too much today.
Is there a weather front moving in?
Did I lift something?
Am I walking right?

It's just so hard to figure out what's causing the pain. I can see how doctor's get frustrated with us with all of these possibilities, none of which there is really a test for. The key is to keep the positive attitude and the optimism that something will help. Perhaps I won't notice it at first, but something will work. I just keep plugging away and seeing what happens.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Day 8, Trip 3 - Haiti Mission - An Attitude of Grattitude

“The presence of a caring person can have an actual, measurable effect on pain and healing.” - Dr. Paul Brand

Ok, let's just put it out there.....I've had a really tough week. I'm finding it hard to believe that Chris has only been gone a week, but I truly think it's because the week has been so incredibly difficult, first emotionally but then physically. My physical pain was dramatically decreased after therapy last Thursday, but came back with a vengence on Saturday when the rain moved in and it hit me.....HARD. I was exhausted and in pain for almost 4 days straight, which hasn't happened to me in a long time. Then, last night, my son got sick in the middle of the night so I was home another day caring for him.

Being that hindsight is always 20/20, I have to believe that one of the reasons that the pain was so intense was the pity party it caused me. I was alone. Chris had left, my boys were gone, and all of my friends have families and obligations of their own, which made me feel so alone. Just me and the pain. That's a really hard place to be. I have been blessed to be a part of an online bible study on the life of King David by Wendy Blight ( and on Monday, she talked about the Dark Nights of the Soul that David went through. It has been a great and powerful study at this time of my life, to see that the man classified as a man after God's own heart went through dark times and times of feeling abandoned and alone. It's how we react to that darkness that's important. So many times I have turned to the words, advice, hugs, and reassurance of my friends here on earth and sometimes that's our downfall. Sometimes those are the times that God wants desperately for us to bring our heartache to Him and not to anyone else. Last week was one of those times and I reached out to validate some of the emotions I was feeling. What I should have done was take everything and all of my suffering to the Lord.

That brings me to today. Today I am in a place where I am just thankful. Thankful for the reminder that God has placed wonderful giving people in my life in the physical absence of my husband. Thankful that my husband is checking in on me and our family daily if not more to make sure everyone is safe and healthy. Thankful that I have friends that are being and doing the things that I have normally been leaning on Chris to do, like rental property maintenance and running to the store to buy some Sprite for my sick son.

Most of all, thankful that I have a Savior. Not just a savior, but a friend, a lover, a therapist, a healer. That in the midst of all that this life can throw at me, there is one who knows me better than I know myself and is calling me to know Him more. The One who cries out to me to spend time with him and wants to comfort me when there is no one else around to do it. My Great Physician who continues to ordain days of rest when I would otherwise push myself to do more than my human body will allow. Who reminds me that He has a plan and that if I will just wait....just be patient....that it will all come together and I....we as a family....will be blessed by the service and sacrifice that we're continuing to go through.

“Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with His Presence.” - Paul Claudel

Oh Lord, help me to keep this attitude....that I may thank you more and worry about myself less.