Under His Wings, you will find refuge.

Under His Wings, you will find refuge.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Still in the Palm of His Hands

20 years ago this week, after a month of every test known to man, plus a brain biopsy that was inconclusive, at a highly regarded National Cancer center in Tampa Florida, I finally got a diagnosis that would change my life forever: You have Multiple Sclerosis.

I had no idea what that was, but considering the different diagnosis that doctors had been whispering in my ears...brain cancer that had metastized to my entire body, and Hodgkin lymphoma, I got up off my chair and hugged the head of neurology, Dr. Stephen Brem. He said, "Well, I've never gotten a hug from someone when I tell them they have a  lifelong disease like MS." I said, "Doc, you have no idea what I've been through this last month." I'm happy to have a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, at least I have some time to live." Of course, I did have no idea what I was up against, but I knew that whatever I would face in the months and years to come, Jesus would be by my side all the way.

During that extraordinary month of my life, amid the crisis, the tests, the numerous doctors, I had God's peace, the very peace that Philippians 4"7 talks about "And the Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." It's so true that I found out very quickly that when I had no where else to go, getting on my knees before the Lord was where I needed to be and where I found that peace.

I knew that worrying about everything that was happening to me was a waste of time. I knew that whatever happened to me, my life was in His hands, not my own. As they put me through test after test, I remember praying the entire time,saying Lord, your Will be done, not mine. And I truly was at peace, not faking it. It's hard to understand if you haven't been through it.  Those around me couldn't quite grasp how I could be so calm, but deep in my heart I knew that the Lord would take care of me and no matter what the outcome, I would be with him, either here on earth, or in heaven. 

I remember having a dream one night. An angel came to me and tapped me on the shoulder. My husband and I would get down on our knees and pray together each night. In my dream I was on my knees and the angel said "Nicki, don't worry, you're gonna be just fine." A dear friend of mine told me on the day this all began, "The doctors are mortal men, your life is in God's Hands." Another friend said " All those doctors just keep on Practicing medicine." No truer words were ever spoken. When everything is against you and it seems like it's over, just remember that God is the one in charge, not them. He is the one with the plan for your life. He knows the beginning and the end and everything in between. 

The power of prayer is so powerful and I witnessed it first hand during that time and in the months following my diagnosis. Long before the days of social media, I still had many people all over the world praying for me during that time. Leading the way was my incredible husband and kids, my faithful church family, my family and friends and my workplace, a tight knit group that was an international art print publisher. We had artists, suppliers, galleries and distributors in different parts of the world and they were all lifting me up to the Lord. People who told me they had never prayed for anyone in their entire life.  I gotta say that kinda blew my mind. I felt totally surrounded by prayer during that tumultuous time in my life and it was a humbling feeling to say the least.

I knew that what was happening to me was all part of God's plan for my life and He could use this to bring others to him if I would just continue to be strong in my faith. One of the verses I claimed during this time was from Romans 8:18: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Use me Lord was my prayer, use me. 

So, here we are 20 years later. It is by the Grace of God that I am still here. I am in a scooter full time now, have many cognitive challenges and other issues like numbness in my entire body and head pain. The most frustrating is the cognitive challenges. Not being able to communicate as quickly as I used to is tough. Having to think things through more often and sometimes not being able to put the pieces of the puzzle together in my mind is often overwhelming. For example I wish I could write in this blog more often but it's so overwhelming sometimes I can't handle it, but I still try. And still, the Lord gets me through the every day challenges that come with living with this disease. I couldn't do anything without Him. 

I am very, very fortunate to still have my loving and supportive husband and now caregiver Steve/ We'll be married for 40 years this May. I truly don't know what I would do without him. He is an incredible man in so many ways. Still working full time at the age of 66 at a new job, (we moved to a new state in 2016, with a new environment, culture, and job)  he amazes me everyday with everything he does for me and our family and I know that I am so blessed that the Lord brought this man into my life. I could not have survived the last 20 years without him. That I am sure about and I am so thankful.

Friends, whatever you may be going through in your life right now, please just remember that Jesus is right by your side. He knows every hair on your head, and only He knows the beginning and the end of your life. Trust Him and He will make a way where there seems to be no way. That's what He does, every day for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

My verses for today are above in Red.

My prayer for today:

Heavenly Father,

I'm still here Lord. Thank you for that. Thank you for your unending love and support. Thank you that you have never left my side from the moment I became sick. Thank you for giving me the strength to continue on each day. Use me Lord, continue to use me for your Glory.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Standing strong through the storm

We all have those periods in our life when things happen that leave us feeling discouraged, defeated and without hope. Events overtake us and we find ourselves angry, frustrated, hurt and alone. We can often feel like God has deserted us.

We've been praying and praying for a certain situation for many years to no avail. Nothing has changed. We begin to beat ourselves up and turn on those closest to us. "Why Lord, why haven't you answered my prayer. I've been a faithful servant. Why haven't things changed" we ask Him.

I believe the answer to that lies in God's perfect timing. We just don't know what His plans are and how he is going to accomplish them. It is our job, as his faithful servants to believe. Believe that He knows exactly what He's doing. Spend our time in prayer and supplication. Spend our time praising him for what He's going to do whenever He decides to act.

Our lives work intricately together as part of His master plan. We don't know how all the pieces fit together, only He does. And believe me, He knows exactly what he's doing. That doesn't mean it's easy. Far from it. It is one of the hardest things in the world to sit back and let someone else take control of the situation because we think we can do a better job and a job that is much quicker. I mean, after all, we know all the details of the situation that is bothering us, we've been intricately involved from the beginning. No one else knows everything like we do, right?

That may be what we are thinking, but don't forget that the God of the universe knows every single little detail of our lives, each one of us. He hold us in the Palm of His Hands. He's watching from above, and he's seen everything that we've seen. He's cried right along with us during the toughest times of our lives.

I remember back in 1997 when I was going through my health crisis and the doctors were stumped. They didn't know what I had. I had been to doctor after specialist doctor, had test after test and still no answer from the men "practicing medicine."

My Dad was a huge source of strength during that time for all of us. He told my understandingly worried husband, " Steve, God created Nicki, you, me and everything and everybody on this earth, You think he can't take care of a little problem like this? Nicki's life is in his hands. We have to just keep praying."

Boy, was my Pop right. So often, we think WE have the answers to the problems we run up against in life. When really, often, we are clueless but we are just too proud to admit it. We are in way over our heads but we still think we have the best ideas. WRONG!

The Lord wants us to turn whatever is bothering us over to Him. He doesn't want us to worry or be fretful about things we can't control. Of course the great verse from Matthew 6:25-34 about worrying is one we all know well:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 

It's so true, isn't it? Can we add one hour to our life by worrying about anything?

Matthew 11:28-30 also reminds us to rest in Him.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He wants us to stay focused on Him and Praise Him through the storm, thanking him for what we already know he is going to do. A great verse from the book of  Psalms is Psalms 50:15 …call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

The main thing that will help any of us in the middle of any crisis is to stand strong with the Lord. He is faithful and He will not let you down. He will take your circumstance, whatever it may be, and turn it around for his glory if you let him. One of my absolute favorite verses in the bible is this one from the book of James:

James 1:2-4  "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Cry out to Jesus in your distress! Listen to Praise music, read bible verses, pray and believe that He is going to deliver you or your loved one from the storm. Everything will be just fine in God's perfect timing. Stay Strong and Believe that He has everything under control.

My verses for today are above in red.

My prayer for today:

Lord Jesus

Help me, Help me to depend on you when the storms of life come. Help me to spend my time praising you, believing in you and your perfect timing. Let my life Glorify you in the midst of any trial I face.

I pray, 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Suffering and pain or death with dignity?

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine posted this question on her page? "What do you think about assisted suicide? Good or bad, give me your opinions..."

I wasn't surprised to see that many people who responded to her question felt that assisted suicide (in cases of the terminally ill or when someone is in a situation where that person is enduring tremendous chronic pain) is perfectly OK and is actually the right of the person to end their own life.

Death with dignity is the catch phrase used to end your own life on your own terms. Why should you suffer when you can end your life and be out of your pain. That phrase Death with Dignity made me think of one of my own favorite phrases.... "What would Jesus do'?

What does the Author of Life, God Almighty, think about anyone in his creation ending their lives in their own timing, not his?

It's a complicated subject and one that is highly charged, that is for sure. In all honesty as a person who has suffered greatly these past twenty years living with the progressive, debilitating disease multiple sclerosis, I would be a liar if I said that I hadn't at least thought about it on some of my worst days when I felt I just couldn't take it anymore.

It's very hard when you are in pain all day, every day. It's not for the faint of heart, that is certain. It's gotten harder as the years have gone by. Not being able to drive anymore and being home bound almost all the time now opens up new challenges. Having cognitive problems on top of that makes it doubly hard. But that is my life, and one that I have learned to accept. Besides, this life is only temporary, I'm just passing through on my way to be with Jesus.

Any of those deeply disturbing thoughts I've had about ending my own life, have been quickly overrun with what I think God would think about such an atrocity? How could I stand before Jesus and justify my actions? We all will account for every word and every action taken during our life at the judgement seat.

And what about my family? How could I do that to them? Having two family members of my husband end their life that way, I have witnessed first hand the devastation left behind for their loved ones to try and pick up.

And what about God's Grace? He gives us His Grace to help us in all situations, right? I certainly have found that to be very true.

I began to avidly search my "go-to" book of life, God's Word, the Bible. Any questions you have about life, the answers can be found within the pages of this treasured book. You need only seek, and truly, you will find.

Here are a couple of verses I found that popped right up to me.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Psalm 34:17-20

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.

2nd Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

For me, the answers were clear and simple. Life is something given by God. Life is something to be treasured and protected at all costs, no matter what the circumstances. God can use your suffering and trials, if you let him. But you must seek His will to do that.

I certainly can understand and even empathize with those suffering through life living with chronic pain and living without hope. But the Lord doesn't want anyone to be without hope. He is the Hope of the World. Only He can bring Hope to a seemingly hopeless situation. He is the light of our lives.

The Bible points the way to anyone who is searching:

Romans 5:2-5 

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I try everyday to take my suffering and use it to bring Glory to God. I'm sure I don't always succeed, but that is my goal. Suffering is part of this life. If we want a pain free life and body, we have to wait until we get to heaven. And anyway, why should I be sparred from suffering during my time here on earth when my Lord and Savior was nailed to a tree and died a horrifying brutal death? Kinda puts everything in perspective doesn't it? Sometimes I feel silly even complaining the least little bit about anything I've had to endure when I think about the suffering of Jesus.

He is the one who gives me the strength I need to face each new day, no matter what it may bring. I cling to this verse to help me on my toughest days:

1 Peter 4:12-19:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 

Thank you Lord for giving me the strength to get through even the toughest of days. Help me to continue to strive to bring you Glory, through it all.

My verses for today are above in red.

My prayer for today:

Lord Jesus, 

I pray today for those living without hope. I pray for those suffering in life without having you by their side. Ease their pain Lord. Be with them Lord, open their hearts to you. Give them the strength they need to reach out to you Lord, for we know that you are our only Hope. Thank you Lord for each new day.