Monday, January 18, 2016

When Bad News is Good News

“We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12b (CEV)

I stood up against the church door, propping it open with my foot, greeting people as they came and went from the worship center.

“Good morning!” I said in my most cheerful voice. “Have a great week!” I smiled as I shook a few hands.

As the sunlight streamed down onto my face, sharing its warmth on the cold wintry day, I took a moment to scratch the itchy rough place just above my eyebrow. Darn it! I thought. Still there. My hand reached up a little further to feel a spot on my forehead I had tried for a week not to touch, hoping that not picking at it would make it go away too. Nope. I guess I’ll have to ask about that one too.

It was Sunday, and just one day away from my dermatology appointment. The appointment was a follow up to the one I had six weeks before, where I had been given a cream that was supposed to clear up the red, scaly rash I had developed around my eyebrow. The ten days of treatment had come and gone. Six weeks later, the rough spot had temporarily cleared up but then returned. The spot on my forehead was new.

I examined my face Monday morning before leaving for the doctor’s office. Hmm. Sigh. Well, we will just see what she says, I thought.

An hour later, I was looking at what looked a little like a miniature version of a ray gun I had seen in the movie Star Wars. It wasn’t in the hands of an intergalactic warrior, however. It was in the hands of my dermatologist, who was preparing to use it on my face.

Six weeks beforehand, if my doctor had told me I had two precancerous growths on my face, I would have been concerned. I might have even been alarmed. My sister had said told me a couple months back that she was using a “chemo cream” on a place over her eyebrow, which in fact is what led me to get my own checked out. I didn’t want anything even remotely connected with the words “cancer” or “chemo.”

At this appointment, however, receiving the news that I had two AKs (an acronym for the hard-to-pronounce and even-harder-to-remember diagnosis of Actinic Keratoses) that needed to be removed via the mini-ray gun - er, cryosurgery – was a relief.

Don’t get me wrong; I would have much preferred it if the places on my face were just minor blemishes that could be fixed with a little acne medication or steroid cream. It’s just that the news of my precancerous lesions came after receiving the news of multiple friends with actual cancer.

Suddenly - in light of my friends' diagnoses - my diagnosis seemed like no big deal, in comparison. In fact, I felt grateful for the "bad news" my doctor had delivered. Unless I get an unexpected recurrence of these AKs, or unless more pop up, I’m done. My friends, on the other hand, are not. Nine weeks of chemo here. Six months there. Surgery. And, as I learned when my mother had cancer many years ago (and thankfully recovered from), you’re not considered “cured” until you hit the five-year remission mark.

All of this reminds me that how we deal with life’s ups and downs has much to do with perspective. 

At Christmastime, my daughter whined that Santa didn’t bring her a new iPhone or hoverboard like some of her friends received. Yesterday, I saw a photo of a Syrian child, not much younger than my own, who was literally starving in a refugee camp. Perspective, my child, perspective.

My Spring Sight blog audience is tiny compared to some other Christian bloggers. Yet, those same bloggers are writing and promoting theirs every day, while I am getting paid well to write elsewhere (aka, my “real” job) and have the privilege of spending most evenings and weekends with my family, rather than in front of the computer. Perspective, Linda, perspective.

I beat myself up often because of my struggle to lose the eight to ten pounds that keeps me in the slightly overweight versus healthy category of the weight charts. Then I see someone who, despite doctors and diets, has at least 50 pounds to go before they lose the “morbidly obese” label. To them, I’m already slim. Perspective. It’s all about perspective.

As my wise husband pointed out the other day to my daughter, an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. God cares about what we want, but He cares more about what we need. And perhaps the best way for us to appreciate all that we have, and even that which we don’t, is to look around.

Today, my bad news is good news. Very good news indeed.

How are you at keeping a positive perspective on life’s ups and downs? What do you struggle to be grateful for? Do you have a story to share of “bad news” that you then realized was actually good news?

When Bad News is Good News originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Grace Esedeke's EncourageMe MondayCrystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart,  and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.

Subscribe to Spring Sight via e-mail
Subscribe to Spring Sight

We will never share your information with third parties.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Getting My Life Back

"The Lord sustains them on their sickbed and restores them from their bed of illness." - Psalm 41:3 (NIV)

I went bowling Saturday night.

Yeah, I know it doesn't sound like much of a big deal. For much of last year, though, I wasn't too sure if I'd ever be bowling again.

This time last year, I couldn't even pull a pan out of the oven without crying out in pain. My shoulder, inflamed with a rotator cuff injury and torn biceps tendon - complicated by rheumatoid arthritis - wasn't getting any better with physical therapy and even anti-inflammatory drugs were useless.

When surgery became the only option, I thought that would make me feel better. Ha. If I thought I knew pain before I went under the knife, I was kidding myself. The aftermath was excruciating. The ensuing weakness was ridiculous. Just raising a glass to my mouth was hard work! After five months of physical therapy, I was able to lift 3-pound dumbbells. A few more months, and I was up to 5 pounds. Woo-wee! I felt like a real wonder woman then!

So you can imagine, then, my excitement (coupled with a little nervous anticipation) about the idea of me actually picking up and ... get ready for it ... throwing (!) a 10-pound bowling ball down a lane! I was even more amazed that despite having the (significantly) worst score of the group in the first game, I somehow managed to get my bowling game back on track to become the second-highest scorer in the second round. Wow! There's nothing like a comeback to make you feel great!

Truthfully, it's not just bowling I'm excited about. Bowling is representative of how I feel about my life. I'm getting it back. Slowly but surely, since my RA diagnosis, I'm beginning to feel like the "old me" again.

I'm back in the gym again, and not just for physical therapy. Yes, real workouts! They're shorter and less intense - having learned my lesson on overdoing it and causing a flare - but they are workouts nonetheless.

I'm cooking again. Not just because my family has to eat, but because I want to! I'm even back to poring over cookbooks to plan my next delicious meal.

I'm making my bed, putting on makeup and styling my hair. You know, those things normal women just do. The things I did out of habit until I couldn't do them. The things I probably could have done sooner, but my will to do them had just dried up. They took so much energy that I often skipped them to save enough energy to just get through the higher priority tasks of the day, like showering, dressing and working. After my surgery, and again when my rheumatoid disease was more active, those little self-care tasks felt so hard. Today, they feel good.

This isn't about remission. Today, I don't have any significant RA symptoms, and for that I'm grateful. But it isn't always like that. I have good days, bad days, and many in between. I'm learning how to manage my disease, though.

One of the greatest gifts I have been given since my RA diagnosis was a health coaching program called Pack Health. Through this program, which I discovered a few months ago through a fellow RA blogger, I have learned how to manage certain aspects of my life in order to keep my disease in check. By setting tiny goals and achieving them, and being cheered on by my fabulous coach each week, I have begun to feel better physically.

I have also noticed a change in my outlook. I now know that while I can't control all aspects of my disease, I have control over some areas of my life and that positive change begins with ME!

Every choice I make - from the food I eat to getting fresh air and exercise - makes a difference. In partnership with God - whom I go to each day for the faith, hope and strength to keep on keeping on - I now have confidence that how I feel on bad days isn't how I will feel everyday. And the good days just keep getting better!

For me, beating RA means getting back to being me. Rediscovering the passions in my life, and maybe even finding some new ones. Taking advantage of the good days, making the best of the bad ones, and even making the most of the ones in between. Being able to say, everyday, "Today is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it." It's a new day!

How has a chronic illness or life situation affected you? What tools have you employed to control or overcome the adverse effects of it? Even if you can't do all you used to do, what ways have you found to still be uniquely you and find joy in your everyday life?

Getting My Life Back originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Grace Esedeke's EncourageMe MondayCrystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth, Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart,  and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.

Subscribe to Spring Sight via e-mail
Subscribe to Spring Sight

We will never share your information with third parties.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Kicking (Your Disease’s) Butt with God’s Power Tools

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” – Deuteronomy 30:19

“It’s confirmed. You have cancer.” I cannot begin to understand how hard those words must be to hear. Yet, thousands upon thousands do so each year. And this week, one of those was a friend of mine.

Cancer. It’s the disease that comes with the big question: “Will I live or die?”

Yes, there are other potentially fatal diseases. Heart disease. Diabetes. Addiction. Even rheumatoid arthritis can be fatal. Cancer, however, just seems to be different. It can strike quickly, taking down its prey within a matter of days. Or it can linger, out of reach of the surgeon’s scalpel, spreading its poison throughout the body over time. So cunning and unpredictable, no one can speak its name without shuddering at the thought.

I used to be complacent about cancer. Its common occurrence in my family, and my mother’s triumph over it 30 years ago desensitized me. And all the hope-filled cancer stories on TV were from survivors. I knew it was tough, but I knew it could be beaten. That is, until two years ago. When it took my father. When it stole the life of my neighbor. When it snatched my friend’s young child. Like a tornado, cancer ripped through my life and those around me, leaving a wake of devastation each place it touched down.

Suddenly, I realized why there is one word that comes up with everyone who has ever encountered cancer: FIGHT.

I write a lot about peace, a lot about faith, and a lot about hope. It’s what I strive for in the midst of fighting my own chronic illnesses like rheumatoid disease (RA) and migraines. Some people may think my approach is too “spiritual” or lightweight, lacking the necessary grit to tackle serious conditions like cancer. But hear me out. If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this:

Peace, faith and hope don’t preclude a fight: they empower it.

Peace is paired with strength. Ever wondered how to have supernatural strength? If you’re fighting chronic illness, you’re going to need it. The good news is that it’s available to you today. In Psalm 29:11, the Bible says, “The Lord gives strength to His people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”

The antidote to inflammation-inducing stress, peace is a key weapon of warfare when it comes to fighting cancer or any other serious illness. It’s that “mind over matter” principle that begins with acceptance and gives us the strength to endure what we must to keep going.

How do we get it? Philippians 4:6-7 has the answer. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

In other words, let go and let God. Then you will find the peace you need.

Faith is knowing you’re not alone. When you’re faced with an invisible illness, it’s easy to feel alone. And when you’re facing an enemy that looms as large as cancer or as daunting as crippling autoimmune disease, you need to know that you’re more than an army of one. How did little shepherd boy David defeat Goliath the giant with just a slingshot and a few small stones? Faith. Not just in himself, but in God. He believed in a power greater than himself to fight with him. And guess what? He won. So have numerous others who have trusted in the Lord, even when the road ahead looked bleak.

So when I’m scared, ready to succumb to the fear that I’m not big enough or strong enough, I call on the one who IS bigger and stronger: the One who says, “The LORD himself will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will never leave you. He’ll never desert you. So don’t be afraid. Don’t lose hope.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIRV)

Hope is what carries you forward. An army doesn’t stand still. It plans its advances and marches forward, until it reaches its ultimate destination. And for anyone fighting cancer or chronic illness, hope is what moves the needle, rekindles the spirit, and keeps our eyes on the prize.

Hope for a cure fuels millions of dollars of medical research, while hope for another day keeps patients in the fight. Hope in God gives us the assurance that everything will be OK, no matter how it all turns out.

Armed with God’s power tools, we know all things are possible. So we keep going, we keep fighting. In our homes. In hospitals. On our knees in prayer. Knowing that the battle belongs to the Lord. He will be with us. He will never leave nor forsake us. We will not be afraid. We will not lose hope. WE WILL FIGHT!

What battles are you fighting with God’s help? Do you trust Him enough to put your faith and hope in Him, so that you can gain the peace and strength you need to win? 

Kicking (Your Disease's) Butt with God's Power Tools originally appeared on Spring Sight blog, by Linda W. Perkins. Click here for more posts. Get even more encouragement by following me on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter

Many of Spring Sight's posts can also be found each week on Crystal Storms' #IntentionalTuesday,  Kelly Balarie's #RaRaLinkUp,, Holly Barrett's Testimony Tuesday, Arabah Joy's Grace & Truth and Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday.

Subscribe to Spring Sight via e-mail
Subscribe to Spring Sight

We will never share your information with third parties.